The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine-or-test requirements for large employers. However, they allowed the vaccine mandate to continue for medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments.
The mandate, announced last fall by OSHA, required companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that workers either get vaccinated or wear masks and show negative Covid test results once a week.
The court ruled that OSHA lacked the authority to impose such a mandate.
“Although COVID-19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most,” the conservative majority ruled. “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.”
“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,” the court continued. “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.”
In dissent, the court’s three liberal members, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan wrote, “In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible. Without legal basis, the court usurps a decision that rightfully belongs to others. It undercuts the capacity of the responsible federal officials, acting well within the scope of their authority, to protect American workers from grave danger.”
Two federal appeals courts had blocked enforcement in 24 states, but the requirement went into effect in the remaining 26. That requirement has now been struck down.
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