By Shelby Talcott
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that private businesses with 100+ employees should move forward with implementing President Joe Biden’s vaccine or testing rule, despite news that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was forced to suspend enforcement due to a court order.
Biden’s vaccine rule, announced in September, requires businesses with 100+ employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or have weekly testing for employees. OSHA announced its rules surrounding the requirement in November and officials announced a Jan. 4 compliance deadline before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a temporary halt of Biden’s rule on Nov. 6.
The appeals court granted a motion to stay on Nov. 12 and OSHA announced it was suspending its implementation and enforcement plan, citing the court’s ruling that it “take no steps to implement or enforce” the emergency temporary standard (ETS) “until further court order.” OSHA noted it “remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies.”
Psaki, asked by the Daily Caller’s Shelby Talcott about OSHA’s halt, doubled down on the administration’s push for businesses to comply with Biden’s mandate. The press secretary declared that “nothing has changed” with the administration’s messaging.
“Let me be very clear: Our message to businesses right now is to move forward with measures that will make their workplaces safer and protect them – their workforces – from COVID-19,” Psaki said during Thursday’s press briefing. “That was our message after the first day issued by the Fifth Circuit. That remains our message and nothing has changed.”
The White House first pushed for continued compliance shortly after the court’s temporary halt of Biden’s vaccine rule, with White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters that the administration thinks “people should not wait.”
“We say: Do not wait to take actions that will keep your workplace safe,” Jean-Pierre said on Nov. 8. “It is important and critical to do, and waiting to get more people vaccinated will lead to more outbreaks and sickness. So this is about keeping people in a workplace safe and so – and what we’re seeing is more businesses and school closures and most lost jobs … keep us stuck in a pandemic that we’re trying to end. Like, we do not want that to happen. We’re trying to get past this pandemic, and we know the way to do that is to get people vaccinated.”
“So people should not wait. We should continue to do – move forward and make sure that they’re getting their workplace vaccinated,” she continued.
Psaki also said Thursday that the administration is still using the Jan. 4 compliance deadline. She cited a survey conducted Tuesday by Gartner that indicated 60% of companies are moving ahead with the Biden’s rule and acting with the idea that the Jan. 4 deadline remains. (RELATED: ‘A Decision We Applaud’ — Big Business Endorses Biden’s Vaccine Mandate)
“They’re essentially implementing components or versions of these vaccine requirements because they know it’s in the interests of their workforces – to protect their workforces, to make sure they can bring more people back to the workforce. And we certainly see that as a positive sign,” Psaki said. “So, we are still heading towards the same timeline.”
While the White House is still working off the Jan. 4 compliance deadline, it may come and go without a legal resolution, Brian Kropp, the chief of researched at Gartner’s HR practice, told CNN.
Not all private businesses are happy with the administration, as evidenced by the battle playing out in court. Small businesses nationwide geared up for a legal fight shortly after Biden’s vaccine rule was announced, and Jobs Creators Network (JCN) – the leading advocacy organization for small businesses in America – was one group to file a suit aimed at blocking the requirement.
“The Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate is clearly illegal and will have a devastating impact on our small business community and our entire economy,” JCN president and CEO Alfredo Ortiz previously said. “JCN is suing the Administration on the grounds that OSHA does not have the authority to impose such a mandate. Even if OSHA did have the power, there is neither the grave danger nor necessity to issue such a sweeping regulation.”
Despite the legal issues, the administration has repeatedly expressed confidence in its rule. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has said it plans to “vigorously defend” the OSHA guidelines, adding that it “looks forward to obtaining a definitive resolution following consolidation of all of the pending cases for further review.”
“The Department of Justice is vigorously defending the emergency temporary standard in court, and we are confident in OSHA’s authority,” Psaki concluded on Thursday.