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Federal appeals court upholds injunction against administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors

January 12, 2023

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A federal appeals court has affirmed an injunction against enforcing Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for those who work for federal contractors, providing a legal win for Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

The Fifth District Court of Appeals sided with Landry in a Dec. 19 opinion that sought to restrain the president’s authority to enforce the mandate without an adequate congressional directive.

“The president asks this court to ratify an exercise of proprietary authority that would permit him to unilaterally impose a healthcare decision on one-fifth of all employees in the United States,” the appeals court said in a 2-1 opinion. “We decline to do so.”

A nationwide injunction had been in place to block enforcement of the vaccine mandate for federal contractors, but that injunction was narrowed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last August to cover just seven states.

The most recent Fifth Circuit opinion, which covers only federal contractors and not federal employees, applies only to the states of Louisiana, Indiana and Mississippi. The appeals court found that only the state where a federal contractor works can enforce health standards related to employment, according to Stephanie Rapp-Tully, a partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC in Washington, D.C., who specializes in federal labor and employment law.

“It looks like it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to enforce a mandate on federal contractors unless the state itself has its own mandate in place,” Rapp-Tully told the Louisiana Record.

She also noted that the potency of the issue continues to fade as time goes on.

“As we get further and further away from 2021, when the vaccines came out, it’s becoming less and less of a topic,” Rapp-Tully said.

The appeals court said the federal contractor mandate was neither straight-forward nor predictable when compared to procurement rules approved by Congress to promote “economy and efficiency.”

Landry called the Fifth Circuit ruling a win for personal freedoms.

“We will continue to stand up against the Biden administration’s abuses of power that threaten us now and in the future,” he said in a prepared statement.

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