Supreme Court shoots down OSHA’s employer vaccine mandate, allows mandate for health care workers

by mcardinal

Marion Bae, FISM News


On Thursday afternoon the United States Supreme Court released their ruling to stay OSHA’s vaccine mandate for all employers with a workforce of 100 or more. 

This ruling has been anticipated for months, since President Joe Biden announced his intention to use OSHA, which falls under the Department of Labor, to enforce an employer vaccine mandate on Sept. 9. OSHA published the mandate in the beginning of November but suspended it later that month. 

The ruling document notes the legal stages the mandate went through to reach the Supreme Court, our nation’s highest judicial authority. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals made the first ruling on the mandate and ordered a stay on Nov. 12, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the stay in December, allowing the mandate to go back into effect. This brought the argument to the Supreme Court for final judgment. 

The ruling document explains that the Supreme Court’s primary concerns, and reasons for the stay, were the unprecedented nature of the mandate and its lack of specificity. 

In the arguments for the stay, the Supreme Court laid out the creation of OSHA and emergency temporary standards, including when they are permissible:

Prior to the emergence of COVID–19, the Secretary had used this power just nine times before (and never to issue a rule as broad as this one). Of those nine emergency rules, six were challenged in court, and only one of those was upheld in full.

In regard to the broad aspect of the mandate, the document says, “There are narrow exemptions for employees who work remotely ‘100 percent of the time’ or who ‘work exclusively outdoors,’ but those exemptions are largely illusory.”  The argument continues by saying the mandate “draws no distinctions based on industry or risk of exposure to COVID–19.”

The Court did not hold back from saying what they thought of the mandate in regard to its impact on Americans:

The Secretary has ordered 84 million Americans to either obtain a COVID–19 vaccine or undergo weekly medical testing at their own expense. This is no ‘everyday exercise of federal power’…It is instead a significant encroachment into the lives—and health—of a vast number of employees.

In a separate ruling, however, the Court ruled that a vaccine mandate would be appropriate in certain working situations. The justices ruled in Biden vs. Missouri that the HHS was within its jurisdiction in requiring any facility that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding to require vaccines for all employees. 

The reasoning behind the difference is that the Court believed that the health care mandate was in direct relation with the facilities being able to properly protect those they came in contact with. The ruling read:

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.