Appeals court narrows injunction on federal contractors’ COVID vaccine mandate

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a nationwide injunction against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors was too broad.

The Biden administration won a partial victory when the three-judge panel’s majority decided this vaccine mandate, can, at least for now, largely go back into effect. A South Georgia judge had issued a sweeping nationwide injunction involving all federal contractors, but the appeals court narrowed the injunction to only the companies that filed suit.

But this may not last long. And ultimately, it may be up to the Supreme Court to decide the legality of this vaccine requirement.

In fact, the panel’s majority said the plaintiffs “will likely succeed” in their claims against the mandate.

The ruling narrowed the scope of the injunction, barring the administration, at least temporarily, from enforcing the mandate on contracts with Georgia and six other states that brought the case or with members of the Associated Builders and Contractors.

The separate vaccine mandates for government employees or members of the military, which also have faced legal challenges, aren’t affected by the appeals court’s Friday decision.

Last October, Georgia and other Republican-led states filed the federal lawsuit, challenging President Joe Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal contractors, claiming that the White House doesn’t have the legal authority to impose the requirement.

Credit: custom

Credit: custom

The complaint brought by Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr deepened a divide over the Biden administration’s strategy to contain the pandemic. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis filed a similar challenge, and Georgia’s litigation was brought in tandem with Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.

“In addition to being an unlawful and unconstitutional overreach, this vaccine mandate on federal contractors will only further divide Americans and hamstring our economy,” Kemp said in a statement last year when the suit was filed, adding that the White House should not “force hardworking Georgians to choose between their livelihood or this vaccine.”

The lawsuit had long been expected. Kemp had warned in September of last year that he would seek litigation to “stop this blatantly unlawful overreach by the Biden administration” shortly after the president announced vaccine requirements.

Among the rules was a mandate that private employers with more than 100 workers require their staffers be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19, plus an additional 17 million workers at health care facilities that receive federal medical funding be vaccinated. But the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration mandate for large businesses. The court allowed a more limited scope of that mandate, requiring health care workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated.

Credit: The Seattle Times

Credit: The Seattle Times

The state’s litigation targeted a separate executive order requiring federal executive branch employees and contractors to be vaccinated. That order, which was set to take effect in December, covers thousands of Georgians who work for public agencies such as the higher education system.

Biden argued at the time that sweeping vaccine mandates would help end the deadly pandemic, but Republicans nationwide opposed the vaccination requirements and threatened legal challenges.

Georgia and the other states argued that large number of federal contract workers would quit, forcing states to choose between breaching the contracts because of a reduced labor force that can’t do all the work or breaching the contracts by retaining unvaccinated employees in violation of federal rules.

Public health experts maintain the vaccine mandates are a crucial step to containing a pandemic that has now killed more than 32,000 Georgians.