Texas Court Blocks Vaccine Mandate For Federal Employees (January 24, 2022)

On January 21, 2022, United States District Court Judge Jeffrey Brown in Texas enjoined the Biden administration from enforcing Executive Order 14043, which would have required federal employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to retain employment, subject to a religious or medical exemption.

Executive Order 14043 applies to federal civil service employees in the executive branch and under that Executive Order, federal agencies are required to set up programs requiring vaccination of civil service employees; Executive Order 14043 is not applicable to private employers. It was one of four mandates issued by the Biden administration with respect to the vaccine. A different Executive Order (EO 14042) applied to Federal Contractors. The OSHA mandate and HHS rule were the other two mandates, which have already been addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the case of Feds for Medical Freedom, et al. v. Biden et al., the Court ruled the mandate was “a bridge too far” with the President using “the stroke of the pen and without the input of Congress,” to require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment. Civil Action: 3:21-cv-00356.

The Court’s Order applies nationwide but is likely to be appealed.

The Biden administration argued that the federal government is like any other employer and can impose a mandate on its employees. However, in its lengthy Opinion, the Court noted that while it believes “folks should get vaccinated against COVID,” it went on to rule that the President does not have such broad authority so as to require millions of employees to get vaccinated.

Specifically, the Court found:

“While vaccines are undoubtedly the best way to avoid serious illness from COVID- 19, there is no reason to believe that the public interest cannot be served via less restrictive measures than the mandate, such as masking, social distancing, or part- or full-time remote work. The plaintiffs note, interestingly, that even full-time remote federal workers are not exempt from the mandate. Stopping the spread of COVID-19 will not be achieved by overbroad policies like the federal-worker mandate.”

The Executive Order which is enjoined by Judge Brown’s decision applied specifically to federal civilian employees, and it is generally agreed that the Order does not appear to impact the Defense Department vaccine mandate for uniformed members of the military. Likewise, the vaccine mandate for federal contractors (EO 14042) is also currently subject to a separate nationwide injunction, which was issued by the District Court for the Southern District of Georgia on December 7, 2021. (Georgia, et al. v. Joe Biden, et al., Civil Action: 1:2-CV-163).

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