On Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, a federal court in Georgia issued a nationwide injunction against Executive Order 14042, which required many federal contractors to mandate vaccination of employees at facilities which provide support for their federal work. As we have reported in recent weeks, attorneys general and other business groups have been filing lawsuits across the country to prevent vaccine mandates from going into effect.
In the State of Georgia et al. v. Biden et al. case, the judge found that the state would likely win on its claim that the federal government exceeded its authority when issuing the Executive Order. The state and businesses in the lawsuit argued that the Executive Order would mean business would be unable to bid on future federal contracts since many employees would resign rather than receive the vaccine.
What happens now?
Employers have struggled over the last few months to keep track of the various vaccine mandates, the guidelines and application of multiple orders and standards, and employee reactions to impending requirements. A number of employers had taken steps toward implementing mandatory vaccine policies in compliance with the Executive Order, Occupational Health and Safety Administration emergency temporary standard (ETS) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rules for employers participating in Medicare or Medicaid programs.
However, now the Executive Order, ETS and CMS rules have all been blocked nationwide. In addition, a growing number of states have enacted new laws that prevent employers from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine on their own. Further complicating things, some states and cities have begun to consider and implement laws and ordinances that would require COVID-19 vaccines for employees.
Employers face many questions
To say this is a mess is an understatement. Employers are left in a quandary—to require vaccines or not? State and local laws are only one piece of the puzzle. Employers should not forget how mandating vaccines without a law to support in that effort might affect employee relations and retention.
With the political and legal landscape regarding mandatory vaccines continually changing, employers are strongly encouraged to keep up with the ever-changing developments on this topic. Employers should also weigh their options and the related risks before deciding whether to adopt or enforce any mandatory vaccine policies until the lawsuits are ultimately resolved in the courts.