DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A federal task force announced on its website Thursday that it won’t take action to enforce the Biden administration’s rules requiring federal contractors to make sure its employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested regularly.
The decision comes from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, which is led by the White House COVID-19 Response Team.READ MORE: Dense Fog In North Texas Gives Way To Afternoon Sunshine & Falling Temperatures Overnight
It comes after this week’s ruling by a federal judge against OSHA’s rules related to federal contractors.
As a result of this and other recent rulings by federal judges, the agency’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing rules are on hold for healthcare workers, employees at private companies with more than 100 employees, and now federal contractors while the courts sort it out.
Jacob Chandler, who opposes the vaccine mandate, praised the judges’ rulings. “It’s great news. I was very excited about it.”
Chandler is an employee at Lockheed Martin, a federal contractor that manufactures the F-35 Fighter Jet locally.
He helped plan a rally this fall at the company against the vaccine mandates and has helped organize a second rally being held there Friday afternoon.
Chandler said, “My goal is to show the employees who are there they have support from the community. I’ve reached out to all different groups around DFW. We just want to give people courage.”
Before the federal task force’s announcement, Lockheed Martin issued a statement about the judge’s decisions to block the rules temporarily saying, “As we have done throughout the pandemic, we continue to follow federal, state, and local legal requirements, including those mandating vaccinations.”
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, also a federal contractor, issued a statement of its own saying, “Southwest is monitoring the various lawsuits that have been challenging the vaccine mandate for federal contractors. For now, Southwest’s COVID-19 vaccine policy remains in place.”READ MORE: Here's How Long It Will Take To Get Your 2022 Tax Refund
The airline says it still expects employees to show proof of vaccination or request an accommodation for religious or medical reasons by January 4th.
Southwest has said that about 93% of its employees have either become fully vaccinated or requested an accommodation.
Fort-Worth based American Airlines didn’t return an email seeking comment.
Constitutional lawyer David Coale of Dallas said Thursday that when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocked the Biden administration’s rules early last month, it found serious problems with OSHA’s decision to quickly put in place the vaccine and testing requirements.
Coale said the virus is a concern, but not necessarily a grave danger that’s limited to the workplace. “For OSHA, however broad its grant of power may be, to move this quickly without proving a grave danger within the workplace the statutes require, that’s going to be a problem no matter how you slice it.”
He said OSHA, like any administrative agency, can only do what Congress gave it the authority to do.
Coale said OSHA may ultimately have to review its rules and take more time to consider any changes. “Either it’s going to have to be significantly scaled back and focus just on federal workers or they’re going to have to just take a long time, and by that time, hopefully we’ll be out of the pandemic.”
Another option he said would be for Congress to give the agency more authority so that it could put in place the COVID-19 vaccination and testing rules.MORE NEWS: Mesquite Mayor, Pastor Hosts Prayer Vigil For Murdered Teen Key'Mydre Palmer Anderson
That could be a tough sell politically after two Democrats joined all Republicans in the U.S. Senate Wednesday night in voting to overturn the Biden administration’s rules.