After the government won a key legal battle last week, the U.S. Department of Justice said Monday the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should allow it to begin enforcing a presidential executive order that federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
On April 7 the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit overturned a nationwide preliminary injunction issued by a federal district judge in Texas that had prevented federal agencies such as the Department of Energy from enforcing President Biden’s Executive Order 14043 mandating that federal employees be vaccinated against Coronavirus-2019.
“But the Court has not yet issued the mandate, and the docket entry accompanying the opinion states that the “[m]andate issue date” is May 31, 2022, the default date under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 41(b),” the Justice Department said in its Monday filing.
The court should “take appropriate steps” so the government may “resume implementation and enforcement of Executive Order 14043,” according to the filing. Prior to the preliminary injunction from the court in Texas, federal vaccine holdouts who did not receive a medical or religious exemption would be fired.
Government attorneys have contacted the legal team for the plaintiffs, a group called Feds for Medical Freedom, and the plaintiffs oppose the request, according to a footnote.
In a separate case, hundreds of security guards and other federal and contract employees at DoE’s Hanford Site filed a motion in federal district court for Eastern Washington late last week, urging the judge to reject the government’s motion to dismiss their second amended complaint.
The Hanford vaccine objectors, represented by a group called the Silent Majority Foundation, noted the 5th Circuit has overturned the nationwide preliminary injunction against the vaccine mandate for federal employees and the Eleventh Circuit is considering whether to overturn a national injunction against Biden’s executive order for contractor employees.
“Each Plaintiff is either a federal contractor or a federal employee, subject to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate under EO 14042 or EO 14043, respectively,” according to the motion. “Most plaintiffs have maintained their jobs by obtaining temporary accommodations from their employers,” which should be made permanent, the plaintiffs argue.
Also, seven plaintiffs working for Battelle Memorial Institute’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a government facility at the Hanford Site, have been terminated or placed on indefinite leave without pay, according to the filing.