supreme court verdicts on two mandatory vaccines

Supreme Court Renders Verdicts on Vaccine Mandates

On January 13, 2022, the United States Supreme Court rendered its verdict on the legal challenges posed by 27 states and many industry groups regarding two proposed mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies.  It was a split decision for the two cases under review.

OSHA EMERGENCY TEMPORARY STANDARD BLOCKED

The Justices blocked the Biden Administration’s vaccination mandate for employers with 100 or more employees. The vote was decided by a 6-3 margin.

The majority opinion wrote, “OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here.”  They further wrote, “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. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category.”

Recognizing that COVID-19 is more than just a workplace hazard, they wrote, “ Although COVID– 19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most. COVID–19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather. That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases. A vaccination, after all, cannot be undone at the end of the workday.”

The dissenting minority of Justices Breyer Kegan and Sotomayor wrote, “Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies.”

During oral arguments heard on January 7, 2022, the Biden administration had asked that at the very least, if the Court determined that employers cannot require employees to be vaccinated, it should leave in place the options for requiring masking and for regular periodic testing. The majority rejected that request as well in their ruling.

In summary, while employers retain the right to create their own policies on vaccination or testing, larger employers are not required to comply with the OSHA-ETS.

The full SCOTUS Decision may be accessed here:

OSHA EMERGENCY TEMPORARY STANDARD:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/21a244_hgci.pdf

HEALTH CARE WORKERS VACCINATION MANDATE ALLOWED TO STAND

At the same time, the Justices voted 5-4 to allow the vaccine mandate for health care workers at facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding to stand, as this requirement fell within the permissible span of authority for the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The supreme court wrote, “We agree with the Government that the [Health and Human Services] Secretary’s rule falls within the authorities that Congress has conferred upon him.”  The Justices went on to state, “After all, 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.” the majority opinion read. The Justices likened the requirement for vaccinations to similar requirements intended to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, e.g. requiring hospital employees to wear gloves, sterilize instruments, wash their hands in a certain manner and at certain intervals, and similar.

The rule for health care workers still allows for employees to seek exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

The full SCOTUS Decision may be accessed here:

HEALTHCARE WORKERS:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/21a240_d18e.pdf

If you have any questions about these breaking developments, please contact HR Service Inc. at (833) 685-8400, ext. 1. For additional information on COVID-19, please visit our Employer COVID Toolkit.

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