A federal judge in Georgia blocked the Biden administration’s nationwide mandate for federal contractors’ employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the latest judicial strike against the policy after a Kentucky federal judge issued a similar ruling last week.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia said President Joe Biden likely exceeded his authority under the Procurement Act when he issued the mandate.
The vaccination mandate, issued on September 9 and scheduled to take effect on January 4, 2022, would apply to about a quarter of the U.S. workforce. It has been opposed by challenges from Republican-governed states who assert the administration has overstepped its legal authority by requiring the vaccinations.
The contractor rule allows companies to utilize additional safety measures for unvaccinated employees with medical or religious exemptions, such as regular testing for COVID-19 or mask requirements.
Calling the federal contractor vaccine mandate “costly, laborious and likely to result in a reduction in available members of the workforce,” District Judge R. Stan Baker ordered the Biden administration to halt enforcement of the mandate “in all covered contracts in any state or territory of the United States of America.”
Judge Baker wrote that the mandate “will also have a major impact on the economy at large, as it limits contractors’ and members of the workforce’s ability to perform work on federal contracts. Accordingly, it appears to have vast economic and political significance.”
Eager to boost vaccination rates, the Biden administration issued the mandate for federal contractors, as well as a regulation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that applies to private sector companies with at least 100 employees, and rules requiring vaccination for employees of Medicare and Medicaid providers, as well as for federal workers themselves. The OSHA regulation has been halted by a Circuit Court.
Nevertheless, many federal contractors have been working to achieve near-total employee vaccination for months and are likely to continue to do so.