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January 24, 2022 - Coronavirus

Double-Take: Nationwide Preliminary Injunction of EO 14042 Limited to “Vaccine Mandate” Only

Another Ticking Clock: Additional District Court Preliminarily Enjoins EO 14042 | Increasing Need for OMB Update on GA Court Clarification Order

On Friday afternoon, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, which had earlier issued a nationwide preliminary injunction of Executive Order 14042, made clear that the injunction applies only to the vaccine mandate and not to other COVID-related requirements. (We previously reported on the nationwide injunction in our client alert.)  The order came in response to the federal government’s motion to clarify the following: 

Defendants request clarification of whether the preliminary injunction is limited to enforcement of the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force’s vaccination requirements, of whether it also prevents federal agencies from enforcing requirements related to masking and physical distancing and the identification of a person or persons to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts at covered contractor workplaces.[1]

In response, the court held that the nationwide preliminary injunction applied only to the vaccine mandate, a limitation it deemed “evident from the language the Court used—as well as the language the Court noticeably did not use—in issuing the injunction” (emphasis in original). The court further noted that its “Order on the Motion for Preliminary Injunction did not reference, discuss, or analyze any of the other COVID-19 safety‑related requirements.”[2] The court’s order on Friday does not explain why its finding that the government lacked statutory authority to enforce the vaccine mandate does not also extend to the other requirements. In any event, the important point for now is that those requirements are not covered by the court’s nationwide preliminary injunction.

Contractors performing work in states covered by one of the other (statewide) preliminary injunctions, however, should closely review the language of those orders to confirm the scope of their compliance obligations. Contractors performing work outside those states must comply with the balance of Executive Order 14042 and its implementing guidance, including the testing, masking, and social distancing requirements provided in the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force Guidance, FAQs, and agency implementing memoranda. 

Contractors unsure of their obligations should reach out to counsel or their cognizant contracting officer for additional clarification.

[1] Defs.’ Emergency Mot. for Stay Pending Appeal and for Immediate Administrative Stay at 12, State of Ga., et al. v. President of the U.S., et al., No. 21-163 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 9, 2021), ECF No. 97.

[2] Order at 4, State of Ga., et al. v. President of the U.S., et al., No. 21-163 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 21, 2022), ECF No. 112.