In an opinion handed down this afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily suspended the enforcement of OSHA’s “vaccination or testing” mandate, which would have applied to employers with 100 or more employees and impacted roughly 84 million workers.
The mandate blocked by the Court would have required that covered workers receive a COVID–19 vaccine, and preempted any contrary state laws. The only exception was for workers who obtained a COVID-19 test each week at their own expense and also required them to wear a mask each workday. Multiple states and business groups had opposed the mandate on the basis that it was unconstitutional and would exacerbate an already serious labor shortage.
In taking the action, the Supreme Court ruled that it was inappropriate for OSHA to invoke the Emergency Temporary Standard and that it exceeded its power:
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.
Despite blocking the OSHA mandate, the Supreme Court allowed the vaccination mandate of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to go into effect. This narrower mandate applies only to health care workers at facilities that receive federal funding through Medicare or Medicaid. This mandate does not permit a testing option in lieu of vaccination, but does permit employees to request exemptions for medical or religious reasons.