A New Orleans court temporarily halted the vaccine mandate for all employees at companies with more than 100 workers must get COVID-19 vaccinations by Jan. 4. (Dreamstime/TNS)

A federal appeals court in New Orleans temporarily halted nationwide implementation of the Biden administration’s mandate that all employees at companies with more than 100 workers must get COVID-19 vaccinations by Jan. 4.

The request to stall the mandate came late Friday from more than two dozen private companies suing the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Labor Department, as part of a court challenge led by Texas, Louisiana, Utah and South Carolina.

The New Orleans court temporarily halted the vaccine mandate while the court further considers the matter. A three-judge panel, including two Donald Trump appointees, gave the Biden administration until 5 p.m. Central time Monday to respond. A senior U.S. Labor Department official expressed confidence that the requirement is legal and said it’s ready to defend the mandate in court.

“Because the petitioners gave cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional concerns,” the judges granted the request to temporarily halt the implementation, according to the court filing issued Saturday.

The private employers complained OSHA’s vaccine mandate oversteps the executive branches’ authority, which they claim doesn’t extend to ending pandemics through public health directives.

“The fight is not over and I will never stop resisting this Admin’s unconstitutional overreach!” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a tweet.

The companies, including at least three large staffing firms, said the vaccine mandate “represents a unique and unprecedented assertion of federal authority: namely, the power to coerce at least 80 million Americans to inject an irreversible vaccine into their bodies, under threat of losing their livelihoods and threat of fines and other penalties” against their employers.

“The U.S. Department of Labor is confident in its legal authority to issue the emergency temporary standard on vaccination and testing,” Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda, the Labor Department’s top legal officer, said in a statement. “We are fully prepared to defend this standard in court.”

The OSHA law preempts state and local laws unless they are part of an OSHA-approved state plan with regulations identical to or at least as effective as federal standards, she said.

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