Home » Court ends mandate for business to require vaccine for employees

Court ends mandate for business to require vaccine for employees

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that businesses with 100 or more employees do not have to require their workers to have COVID-19 vaccines, have weekly testing for COVID or wear breathing masks, reversing an order by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The Associated Press reports that the court did allow the Biden administration, through OSHA, to continue a vaccine mandate for most U.S. health care workers.

The court’s decision Thursday comes during the nation’s highest spike in cases in the two-year coronavirus pandemic as the administration pushes to boost the vaccination rate among Americans.

The court’s six conservative members backed the conclusion that the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the OSHA vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses that employ more than 80 million people, the AP reports.

In dissent, the court’s three liberals argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgment for that of health experts. “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,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent.

“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,” the majority wrote in an unsigned opinion.

The AP reports that when crafting the OSHA rule, White House officials anticipated legal challenges — and some harbored doubts that it could withstand them. The Biden administration still views the rule as a success at driving millions of people to get vaccinated and for private businesses to implement their own requirements that are unaffected by the legal challenge.

Both rules had been challenged by Republican-led states. In addition, business groups attacked the OSHA emergency regulation as too expensive and likely to cause workers to leave their jobs at a time when finding new employees already is difficult.

The vaccine mandate that the court kept in place covers virtually all health care workers in the country. It applies to health care providers who receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding, potentially affecting 76,000 health care facilities as well as home health care providers; it allows medical and religious exemptions.

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