Federal Judge Blocks Enforcement of Biden’s Vaccination Mandate for Federal Contractors in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee

Dec 2, 2021

President Biden signed Executive Order 14042 on September 9, 2021, mandating that the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force provide guidance regarding adequate COVID-19 safeguards that apply to all federal government contractors and subcontractors. Under the Executive Order and guidance, all “covered contractors” are required to ensure that all “covered contractor employees” are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than January 18, 2022, unless they are legally entitled to an accommodation.

The vaccination mandate applies to any full-time or part-time employee of a contractor or subcontractor working on or in connection with a federal contract. It covers those employees working at a covered contractor workplace, as well as all other employees that share workplaces with such employees or come into contact with them as part of their employment.

This week, however, a federal judge in Kentucky blocked the Executive Order from going into effect in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, leaving the mandate temporarily unenforceable in these states. In issuing a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the Order, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove questioned President Biden’s ability to issue a public health measure, such as mandatory vaccination requirements, based primarily on the President’s authority to “create an economical and efficient system for procurement and supply” of goods and services for the federal government.

The ruling explicitly halts government enforcement of the Executive Order in the three states. While the court could eventually find the President acted within his authority, such a determination likely will not come for weeks, or even months. As such, employers should recognize that while the vaccination mandate for federal contractors and subcontractors is currently unenforceable in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, such a determination is subject to change and remains in effect in other states. With the ruling, the Executive Order is now among the list of other vaccine-related mandates issued under Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan being challenged in court. As a reminder, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed enforcement and implementation of OSHA’s “vaccine or test” emergency temporary standard. A federal judge also recently blocked enforcement of a similar vaccination requirement for most health care workers. Despite the legal challenges, employers who wish to maintain a vaccine mandate may continue with those plans, as employer vaccine mandates have typically been upheld by courts when challenged.

We will continue to keep you updated on further developments related to the federal contractor mandates as they become available. Your workforce is our priority.

Skip to content