Supreme Court Blocks Enforcement of OSHA Vaccination Mandate
In yesterday’s 6-3 ruling, the United States Supreme Court blocked enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) vaccination mandate on large private employers. The Supreme Court’s ruling comes three days after the OSHA’s mandate was to take effect and less than a week after it heard oral argument on the vaccination mandate.
OSHA’s vaccination mandate sought to require businesses with 100 or more employees to implement workplace policies requiring vaccination or weekly Covid testing in order to enter the workplace. OSHA issued this mandate claiming it had emergency power established by Congress that allowed OSHA to side-step the normal rulemaking process if the Labor Secretary determines a new workplace safety standard is necessary to protect workers from a grave danger.
The federal government argued during last Friday’s oral argument that the Covid pandemic presented a “grave danger” that justified its mandate. In an unsigned opinion, the Court disagreed stating “[a]lthough 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.”
In a simultaneously released 5-4 ruling, the Court did not, however, block a vaccination mandate for healthcare facilities and nursing homes who accept Medicare and Medicaid payments. This vaccination mandate was issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) and sought to require vaccination of certain healthcare workers at hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities who participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
The Court effectively lifted orders by federal judges in Missouri and Louisiana who had previously blocked the CMS mandate in 24 different states, including Arizona. Healthcare workers and facilities who fall within the purview of the CMS mandate are now required to be vaccinated by the end of February, unless the worker qualifies for an exemption due to their own health status or sincerely held religious beliefs.