On December 7, 2021 a federal district court in Georgia issued a nationwide order prohibiting enforcement of the federal contractor COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccine mandate until a full hearing can be held. A coalition of states, governors, state agencies, and a construction industry trade association had sued to stop the federal government from requiring covered federal contractors to have their employees be fully vaccinated by January 18, 2022 (with limited exceptions for religious and medical reasons). The court said the parties are likely to eventually succeed in their lawsuit, so it issued a preliminary order that halts the mandate across the U.S. while the lawsuit works its way through the court system.
When President Biden issued Executive Order 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, he relied on the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, also called the Procurement Act, for his authority. He said that his action was necessary “in order to promote economy and efficiency in procurement by contracting with sources that provide adequate COVID-19 safeguards for their workforce.” The court disagreed, stating that when Congress passed the Procurement Act, it intended to allow a President to address administrative and management aspects of federal contracts, not to regulate public health (Georgia v. Biden, SD Ga, Dec. 2021).
Tips: We previously reported that a federal district court in Kentucky had placed the federal contractor vaccine mandate on hold in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. Today’s decision by the federal district court in Georgia means that covered federal contractors across the country don’t have to take any actions to comply with the federal contractor vaccine mandate, at least for now. If you’ve already signed a contract containing the vaccine clause and you don’t intend to proceed with the requirements on your own initiative, it’s probably wise to notify your contracting officer that you’re pausing your efforts while the mandate is legally suspended.
All of these preliminary decisions will certainly be appealed, and these results could eventually change. Vigilant will keep members updated. In the meantime, if you have any questions about requiring employees to be vaccinated, contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney.