On Tuesday, December 7, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia issued a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors and subcontractors in all covered contracts nationwide. Though the lawsuit only included Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia, the court issued the injunction “with nationwide applicability.” This order follows last week’s preliminary injunction by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky to halt the mandate in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio.
The Court’s order was based on its determination that the “Plaintiffs will likely succeed in their claim that the President exceeded the authorization given to him by Congress through the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act when issuing Executive Order 14042.” Under Executive Order 14042, certain government contracts were to include a clause stating that the contractor and subcontractor (at any tier) must comply with all guidance published by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. The updated Task Force guidance imposed a deadline for covered contractor employees to be fully vaccinated, unless legally entitled to an accommodation, by January 18, 2022.
This ruling follows nationwide stays to the implementation and enforcement of the Biden Administration’s two other key vaccine mandates: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Omnibus COVID-19 Healthcare Staff Vaccination Interim Final Rule.
All three of these injunctions remain in effect until further court order, though they are not yet permanent and do not address the final merits of the mandates. Employers should continue to monitor legal developments and consider continuing to take steps to be ready to come into compliance with the applicable vaccine mandates, should a court dissolve any of the injunctions.