United States Supreme Court Blocks Vaccine or Test Rule
Over the past few weeks, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 variant has exploded. As a response to the rising cases, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandated that employers with at least 100 employees require covered workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This week, the Supreme Court blocked this rule in National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
What happened in this case?
The Biden administration enacted a test or vaccine mandate for large employers with 100 employees or more, roughly 2/3rds of the private sector. This mandate would cover 84 million workers. Many business challenged this mandate as being a significant government overstep into the health of employees.
The conservative majority of the Supreme Court agreed. The court held that Congress gave the Department of Labor the power to establish safety standards for the workplace, but it did not give it the authority to enact broad public health measures. COVID-19 is not unique to the workplace, and can occur virtually anywhere people gather, so it is not the scope of authority of the Department of Labor. The Court used this same argument to argue that OSHA does not have this type of authority either.
The Court also pointed to the harm that this mandate would cause on businesses, including the cost of compliance, such as purchasing weekly COVID tests. The Court feared that this mandate would destroy the already fragile supply chains and labor markets.
Although the vaccine mandate for small business was blocked, the Court allowed the vaccine mandate to go into effect for certain health care workers, including those who work at hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs.
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