Washington Watch: Courts delay federal vaccine requirements

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Several recent court decisions have delayed implementation of the Biden administration’s policies to require Covid-19 vaccinations in defined circumstances. Some of these proposed federal policies may yet significantly affect community college campuses, but for now they are in limbo.

In the latest development, a federal district court in Georgia this week blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate for federal contractors to vaccinate against Covid. As reported earlier in CC Daily, the president’s order, together with Safer Federal Work Place Task Force guidance, required that by January 4 contractors and subcontractors working on contracts of $250,000 or more had to ensure that their employees and others working in connection with these contracts were fully vaccinated against the virus. The requirement would have affected many, if not most, community colleges. 

This week’s decision is likely to be appealed in the 11th Circuit, which could take months, followed by a probable appeal to the Supreme Court. 

The decision follows a November 30 ruling in federal court against the administration’s national vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. Numerous community college nursing and allied health programs are affected by this policy. 

A stay on OSHA mandate

Finally, and most importantly for community colleges, another legal challenge has at least temporarily nullified the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandate that all private employers with more than 100 employees require that they are vaccinated or take weekly tests. (Non-vaccinated employees would also have to wear masks in most situations.) A federal court of appeals in New Orleans ruled last month that the order was an overreach of authority.

This ruling was of great significance because in 28 states and territories, the OSHA mandate would also have applied to public sector organizations as well; they would have been required to establish a vaccination standard at least as effective as the OHSA one for private entities.

Similar lawsuits were filed in every other federal circuit court and have been consolidated into one case before the Sixth Circuit. For now, the stay issued by the New Orleans court remains in effect.

The American Association of Community Colleges will continue to keep its members apprised of developments in this area. 

About the Author

David Baime
is senior vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.