The Supreme Court ruled today that Biden’s emergency temporary standard mandating vaccines for large employers was outside of OSHA’s authority and 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,” the unsigned opinion in the businesses case stated.

This comes weeks after the sixth circuit differed from the fifth circuit’s decision which came in early December from the perspective of broader understanding of OSHA’s purpose as an administrative body. The sixth circuit identified “In emergency circumstances, OSHA ‘shall’ promulgate an ’emergency temporary standard’ that takes ‘immediate effect.’ Emergency temporary standards do not displace notice-and-comment requirements; rather, the ETS serves as the ‘proposed rule,’ and OSHA must proceed over the course of six months with the notice-and-comment procedures of a normal OSHA standard.” The legal avenue for which the 5th circuit court injunction was predicated on the preservation of the “rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the bounds of their constitutionally granted authorities.”

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled on this matter, President Biden has placed the responsibility of workplace safety, in regards to COVID-19 vaccination protocols shall be determined state by state. 

Although the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision on the matter of vaccine requirements for employers, they also confirmed in part in a 5-4 decision which allows health care worker vaccine mandates to take effect. The more limited rule concerning more than 10 million staff at healthcare facilities that receive government funding did not pose the same concern, they decided, by 5-4. That said imposing conditions on recipients of public money fit “neatly” into the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The rulings come as some parts of the policies were due to go into effect this week. The court heard arguments in the case on Friday.

With this ruling, we may see states take up their own vaccine mandates for employers.  


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