OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — After a federal court order temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s move to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for federal workers and contractors, unvaccinated employees at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who were previously put on unpaid leave will return to work next week.

Tuesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker in Georgia temporarily halted the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors across the country. Federal contractors were facing a Jan. 18 deadline to be fully vaccinated.

The staff members who were on unpaid leave have been notified that they should prepare to return to work Dec. 13. ORNL managing contractor UT-Battelle said they will rely on other safety controls such as masking and testing.

Six employees at Oak Ridge National Laboratory filed a class-action against UT-Battelle in October claiming discrimination against those who requested religious or medical accommodation from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Late last month, a Kentucky-based federal judge issued a narrower ruling that blocked the federal contractor mandate in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. Tuesday’s ruling effectively extended the freeze nationwide.

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