While the issue of whether private employers can legally enforce vaccine mandates among their workforce continues to be challenged across the country, a split panel in the Fifth Circuit is the first appellate court to signal certain private employer mandates could be vulnerable. On February 17, the Fifth Circuit issued an unpublished 2-to-1 panel decision in Sambrano v. United Airlines. The opinion, which is of limited precedential value, reverses the district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction against the airline’s mandatory vaccine program.
In reversing the district court, the Fifth Circuit concluded the plaintiff employees sufficiently demonstrated they would suffer irreparable harm if the airline enforced its vaccination requirement. While superficially this may seem a blow to employer-backed vaccine programs, the majority opinion stresses that the decision is strictly limited to the parties, facts, and legal test before it.
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