The Trump administration does not have to issue an emergency rule requiring employers to protect workers from the coronavirus, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declared that the Labor Department’s workplace safety arm “reasonably determined” that an emergency rule “is not necessary at this time.”

A top labour union sued the Occupational Health and Safety Administration last month seeking to compel it to issue an emergency temporary standard on the coronavirus.

The AFL-CIO said in filing the suit that tens of thousands of workers have been infected on the job through exposure to infected patients, co-workers and unscreened members of the public. As the economy reopens and people return to work, person-to-person contact will increase and an already “shocking number of infections and deaths among workers will rise,” the union said.

In its two-page ruling, the appeals court said OSHA is authorized to issue an emergency temporary standard, or ETS, if it determines that “employees are exposed to grave danger” from a new hazard in the workplace, and that an emergency rule is needed to protect them from that danger.

The decision not to issue an ETS “is entitled to considerable deference,” the court said.

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