By Tom Hals
(Reuters) – A judicial panel on Tuesday consolidated 34 lawsuits challenging the Biden administration’s workplace COVID-19 vaccine rule in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a venue favored by opponents of the rule.
The 6th Circuit was chosen randomly. The rule requires employers with at least 100 workers to mandate COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing combined with wearing a face covering at work.
The rule has been challenged by states, trade groups and businesses that are seeking to block it in circuits perceived as conservative. Unions filed in circuits considered more liberal.
The 6th Circuit in Cincinnati will now oversee the consolidated cases. The court was the venue where Kentucky, a conservative media company and religious groups chose to file their challenges to the rule.
Vaccine mandates are deeply controversial in the United States. Supporters say they are needed to put an end to the nearly two-year coronavirus pandemic, while opponents argue they violate the U.S. Constitution and curb individual liberty.
The rule was issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which said it will prevent 250,000 hospitalizations caused by COVID-19. The rule set a Jan. 4 deadline for compliance.
On Friday, a three-judge panel on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocked the rule, calling it a “one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces.”
The Biden administration will likely ask the 6th Circuit to review the ruling by the 5th Circuit.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Dan Grebler and Cynthia Osterman)
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