OSHA ETS Heads to Sixth Circuit

Judge sitting behind bench (illustration)

OSHA is permitted to issue an ETS if the agency arrives at the conclusion that a “grave danger” to worker safety exists.

December 13, 2021
George Morrison - White and Williams LLP

On November 16, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was selected during the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation’s lottery to hear the multiple consolidated challenges to the recent COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA is permitted to issue an ETS if the agency arrives at the conclusion that a “grave danger” to worker safety exists. An ETS does not go through the typical notice-and-comment period that federal regulations usually follow.

Inheriting the Fifth Circuit’s recent nationwide stay on implementation and enforcement of the ETS, the Sixth Circuit will decide whether the stay should be “modified, revoked, or extended” in the short term. Early this morning, OSHA filed an emergency motion to dissolve the Fifth Circuit’s stay of the vaccine mandate with the Sixth Circuit. OSHA argued, among other things:

  • The Fifth Circuit erred in holding “that OSHA lacked statutory authority to address the grave danger of COVID-19 in the place on the ground that COVID-19 is caused by a virus and also exists outside of the workplace” because “[t]hat rationale has no basis in the statutory text.”
  • The Fifth Circuit erred in finding the ETS both over- and underinclusive because “OSHA recounted extensive empirical data showing that all employees can transmit COVID-19 in the workplace and that COVID-19 has spread in a vast variety of workplace.”
  • The “petitioners have not shown that their claimed injuries outweigh the interests in protecting employees from a dangerous virus while this litigation proceeds . . . . These claimed injuries do not justify delaying the [ETS] that will save thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations.”

Mr. Morrison may be contacted at morrisong@whiteandwilliams.com


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