A Texas judge has ruled President Joe Biden can not force federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and that the federal government could not discipline employees who did not comply.
This is the latest setback to the White House’s efforts to require vaccinations for various groups of American workers.
Biden had issued an order requiring approximately 3.5 million government employees to be vaccinated by November 22 – barring a religious or medical exemption – or they could face disciplinary action or even having their jobs terminated.
The question, according to U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, was whether Biden could do so “As a condition of employment, millions of federal employees must undergo a medical procedure.
“That is a bridge too far under the current state of the law, as recently expressed by the Supreme Court.”
Brown, who was appointed by then-President Donald Trump and is based in Galveston, said the government could protect public health with less invasive measures such as masking and social distancing.
The judge’s decision is the latest in a string of court decisions that contradict government vaccine mandates.
More than 93 percent of government employees have received at least one vaccination, with 98 percent having been immunized or requesting a religious or medical exemption, according to the White House.
In response to the judge’s decision, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki stated, “We are confident in our legal authority.”
The Justice Department announced on Friday (Jan 20) that it would appeal the decision.
The administration has pointed out that similar claims have been rejected by multiple other courts, and that federal agencies have stated that employees with outstanding exemption petitions will not be disciplined or punished.
The judge stated that he was under the impression that the government would begin penalizing non-compliant personnel as soon as possible.
By February 15, the White House stated it wants federal agencies to start requiring weekly COVID-19 tests.
According to court records, Brian Fouche, a survey statistician with 16 years of government experience, was notified in a Jan. 19 letter that he would be suspended for 14 days starting Jan. 30 because he refused to disclose his vaccination status.
The letter from the U.S. Census Bureau informed Fouche that his “misconduct is very serious and will not be tolerated.” Failure to comply with the vaccine requirements, according to the letter, could result in his dismissal.
The order applies to federal employees in the executive branch, but not to postal workers, legislative or judicial employees.
The United States Supreme Court blocked the president’s COVID-19 vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses in mid-January, a policy that conservative justices deemed an unconstitutional imposition on the lives and health of many Americans.
The court allowed a separate federal vaccine requirement for healthcare facilities.
In December, a federal judge blocked a third major vaccine requirement aimed at employees of federal contractors such as airlines and manufacturers. more info
COVID-19 has killed over 860,000 people in the United States during the two-year pandemic and has had a significant economic impact.
Many large employers, including United Airlines and Tyson Foods Inc, have touted their success in using mandates to vaccinate nearly all of their employees.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the mandate for larger businesses prompted some employers, including Starbucks, to abandon employee vaccination requirements.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich praised the ruling Friday, vowing to continue “to fight to protect your liberties.”