(Reuters) – A Texas judge ruled Friday that President Joe Biden could not demand that federal employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus and blocked the US government from disciplining employees who did not follow it.
Biden issued an order demanding that about 3.5 million workers be vaccinated by November 22, with the exception of a religious or medical residence – or otherwise subjected to discipline or dismissal.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown said the question was whether Biden could "require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of his employment. That, according to the current legal situation recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far."
Judge Brown, based in Galveston and appointed by former President Donald Trump, said the government could protect public health with less invasive measures, such as masking and social distancing.
The U.S. Department of Justice said it would appeal the verdict. House Secretary Jen Psaki said 98% of federal workers are vaccinated or have sought medical or religious exemptions. "We are confident in our legal authority," she said in response to the judge's decision.
The judge said that was his view. that the government would soon begin to discipline employees who do not follow the rules.
The ruling is the latest in a series of court decisions to go
In mid-January, the US Supreme Court blocked the president's mandate to vaccinate or test covid-19 for large companies, a policy that conservative judges considered inappropriate for many Americans' lives and health. The court allowed a separate federal vaccine requirement for healthcare facilities.
A third major vaccine requirement targeted at federal contractors was blocked by a federal judge in December.
COVID-19 has killed more than 800,000 people in the United States in the two-year period pandemic and has weighed heavily on the economy.
Many large employers such as United Airlines and Tyson Foods Inc. have hailed their success in using mandates to get almost all staff vaccinated. The Supreme Court ruling that blocked the mandate for larger companies led some employers, including Starbucks, to abandon vaccine requirements for staff. Catalog