On Friday, January 21, 2022, Judge Jeffrey V. Brown of the Southern District of Texas issued a nation-wide injunction, blocking enforcement of President Biden’s Executive Order 14043. Executive Order 14043 requires vaccination for COVID-19 for all federal workers without qualifying medical or religious exemptions. The mandate, issued in September, was one of the first and most successful vaccination requirements from the Biden administration.
The opinion reasoned that while the President has broad authority to regulate executive branch employment policies, the vaccine mandate is not an “employment regulation.” Citing the recent Supreme Court decision staying implementation of a similar mandate for private employers, Judge Brown determined “the President was without statutory authority to issue the federal worker mandate.” Although the Executive Order is currently enjoined, nearly 98% of federal workers have already been vaccinated. The Justice Department filed an immediate appeal.
The legal landscape continues to evolve quickly and there is a lack of clear-cut authority or bright line rules on implementation. This article is not intended to be an unequivocal, one-size-fits-all guidance, but instead represents our interpretation of where applicable law currently and generally stands. This article does not address the potential impacts of the numerous other local, state and federal orders that have been issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including, without limitation, potential liability should an employee become ill, requirements regarding family leave, sick pay and other issues.