The Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees is back in effect after The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ended a district court’s injunction with a 2-1 decision on April 7.
Initially, federal employees had until Nov. 30 to get vaccinated or obtain an exemption under Executive Order 14043. However, that deadline was pushed into 2022, and an injunction was issued on Jan. 21 by Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, blocking the order.
How the CSRA played into the decision
In the appeals court opinion, Judge Carl E. Stewart wrote that the courts aren’t the venue to challenge “an adverse employment action” in this case, due to the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) of 1978 and the Supreme Court’s decision in Elgin v. Department of Treasury in 2012.
In fact, the CSRA was the touchstone of the debate. The act enables federal employees to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board after an adverse employment action is taken against them, such as termination, a step, the majority argued, that should have been taken before filing the suit.
In his dissent, Judge Rhesa H. Barksdale argued that this circumstance “does not fall within the purpose of CSRA.”
“Simply put, CSRA does not cover pre-enforcement employment actions, especially concerning 2.1 million federal civilian employees. The district court, therefore, had subject-matter jurisdiction to hear plaintiffs’ claims,” Barksdale said.
What’s next for the vaccine mandate?
Does this mean that the federal vaccine mandate is here to stay? Not quite.
Opponents of the mandate reportedly seek a full-bench hearing before the 5th Circuit’s judges. If the hearing is granted, the injunction may be reinstated.
According to a Jan. 21 press briefing from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, 98 percent of federal workers are in compliance with the vaccine mandate.
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