OSHA Suspends Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) Enforcement Following Fifth Circuit Ruling – Now What?

On Friday, November 12, 2021, in BST Holdings, L.L.C, et al. v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Case # 21-60845, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an order affirming its November 6, 2021 order, staying the implementation and enforcement of OSHA’s November 5, 2021 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The ETS requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees who report to a workplace are vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. The Fifth Circuit, which many consider to be the most politically conservative of all the circuit courts, issued its order following an expedited briefing schedule, prompted by an emergency motion to stay the ETS filed by various individuals, employers, religious groups and states. Pending further judicial review, the order barred OSHA from taking steps to implement or enforce the ETS. In response, OSHA has suspended all activities related to the ETS for the time being, stating: “While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation.” Businesses now face an uncertain future with OSHA conceding that it will abide by the court’s order while pursuing its reversal. Because similar challenges to the ETS have been brought in all but one of the 12 federal circuit courts of appeals, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will conduct a lottery as required by statute, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. §2112 (a)(3),  likely this week, to select which federal circuit will hear appeals in the numerous challenges, including with respect to the Fifth Circuit’s order. Any outcome from the circuit selected in the lottery process may and likely will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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