The United States Supreme Court yesterday blocked the Biden administration‘s enforcement of a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask.
How did we get here?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) was gearing up to implement a vaccine-or-test requirement for staff at any company with more than 100 employees. The mandate that was set to take effect on February 9, 2022 has now been blocked by the US Supreme Court.
Why? …per the Supreme Court, OSHA overstepped their authority
The court held that the Biden administration exceeded its authority by seeking to impose the OSHA rule. “Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” the court ruled. More than 80 million workers would have been affected by the OSHA requirement. Three justices dissented from that opinion. The Court’s ruling still allows states and individual employers to impose vaccine mandates and testing requirements based on their specific circumstances.
So, what does this mean?
The federal government will not be enforcing or imposing mandates on companies on a national scale. States will be left to regulate local workplace safety. The Court allowed similar requirements to remain in place nationwide for medical facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments.
Wait, there’s more….
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) had also issued a vaccination mandate, which required employees at hospitals, nursing homes or other healthcare facilities that receive federal funding to be vaccinated – with some medical or religious exemptions.
A second ruling by the Supreme Court yesterday upheld this vaccination mandate, and stated “ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: first, do no harm. It would be the ‘very opposite of efficient and effective administration for a facility that is supposed to make people well to make them sick with COVID–19.’”
The Justices concluded the CMS Secretary did not exceed his statutory authority in requiring that, in order to remain eligible for Medicare and Medicaid dollars, the facilities covered by the interim rule must ensure that their employees be vaccinated against COVID–19. Four justices dissented from the Court’s second opinion.
The good news for your company’s exhausted employment team and HR office…
All of those mandates that you’ve been writing and updating, and rewriting to keep up with the whirlwind of changes around employee vaccinations are still enforceable if a private company chooses to enforce their own mandate.
The OSHA consolidated cases are National Federation of Independent Businesses, et al. v. Department of Labor, et al. and Ohio, et al. v. Department of Labor, et al. The CMS consolidated cases are Biden et al. v. Missouri, et al. and Becerra, et al. v. Louisiana, et al.