U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Private Employers

January 14, 2022

Covered employers would have been required to “develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.” OSHA had published its Emergency Temporary Standard on Nov. 5, 2021, but states, businesses and nonprofit organizations challenged OSHA’s rule. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the vaccination and testing requirements. After the various cases became consolidated before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, that court lifted the stay nationwide. The challengers sought emergency relief from the U.S. Supreme Court and oral arguments took place last week.

In its decision, the Court described the OSHA rule as a “significant encroachment into the lives – and health – of a vast number of employees.” The Court held the OSHA Act, which allows for Emergency Temporary Standards, only authorizes the Secretary of Labor to set workplace safety standards and not “broad public health measures.”

The opinion states: “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. Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life—simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock—would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds released a statement following the ruling, stating, “The SCOTUS ruling on the OSHA vaccine mandate is a major victory for Iowans, their personal freedoms and liberties. The Biden Administration should hear this message loud and clear: The American citizens do not believe in government overreach, and they don’t believe in the federal government making health care decisions for them.”

In a separate opinion, the Court allowed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services vaccine mandate to go into effect for staff in nursing homes and federally-funded healthcare facilities, unless they are exempt for medical or religious reasons. 

“At the same time, I’m very disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling on the CMS vaccine mandate. Medical providers that have been on the frontlines of this pandemic saving lives deserve the freedom and ability to make their own informed health care decisions,” Reynolds said about the CMS mandate decision.

Read the opinion of NFIB v. OSHA Here

Read the opinion of Biden v. Missouri Here