Bloomberg Law
Jan. 12, 2023, 8:02 PM

Biden Federal Contractor Vaccine Order Blocked by Sixth Circuit

Khorri Atkinson
Khorri Atkinson
Senior Labor & Employment Reporter

A federal appeals court in Ohio has blocked President Joe Biden from enforcing his mandate for Covid-19 vaccines and face masks for government-contractor workers in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, finding that he lacks the statutory authority to do so.

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit unanimously ruled Thursday that the Biden administration failed to show it has the authority under federal procurement law to issue such a mandate for companies that do business with the government.

“We decline the government’s invitation to construe” the law as “authorizing the President to ignore the limits inherent in the Property Act’s operative provisions in favor of an ‘anything goes’ pursuit of a broad statutory purpose,” the panel wrote.

The judges affirmed a lower court ruling that Biden’s mandate is unlawful.

But the district court abused its discretion in extending relief to non-party contractors in the plaintiff states, the panel also found.

If the injunction doesn’t extend to non-party contractors, the federal government could “simply choose to do business with those against whom it could enforce the mandate,” the states had argued. But the appeals court dismissed this claim, saying this is nothing “but pure speculation.”

The Sixth Circuit is the fourth federal appeals court to weigh in on Biden’s order, which has been challenged by several Republican-led states.

The Fifth Circuit in December ruled against Biden and said he overstepped his authority.

The Eighth Circuit heard oral arguments in August, and the Eleventh Circuit granted the president a narrow victory when it partially overturned a nationwide injunction from a federal court in Georgia last year blocking the mandate.

The federal contractor mandate—which won’t be enforced while litigation proceeds—would apply to roughly a quarter of the US workforce, and affect businesses including Lockheed Martin Corp., Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.‘s Google, and General Motors Co.

Judge Joan Larsen wrote the opinion. Judges David McKeague and Eugene Siler joined.

The case is Kentucky v. Biden, 6th Cir., No. 21-6147, 1/12/23.

To contact the reporter on this story: Khorri Atkinson in Washington at katkinson@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Genevieve Douglas at gdouglas@bloomberglaw.com

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