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BY CHRIS QUEEN | P J Media
Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool
On Thursday afternoon, the Supreme Court weighed in on Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 employees. The Court ruled by a 6-3 margin, with Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissenting, to grant the applications for a stay of the private OSHA mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees. In a separate 5-4 decision, the Court allowed the mandate for federally funded healthcare agencies to go forward, with Justices Gorsuch, Thomas, Barrett, and Alito dissenting. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberals on the court, voting to allow the mandate for health care workers to continue.
On the OSHA mandate for private employers, the Court ruled:
The applications for stays presented to JUSTICE KAVANAUGH and by him referred to the Court are granted. OSHA’s COVID–19 Vaccination and Testing; Emergency Temporary Standard, 86 Fed. Reg. 61402, is stayed pending disposition of the applicants’ petitions for review in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and disposition of the applicants’ petitions for writs of certiorari, if such writs are timely sought. Should the petitions for writs of certiorari be denied, this order shall terminate automatically. In the event the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted, the order shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court.
The Court remanded the case back to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration. The Biden administration has not yet announced whether it will continue to pursue the case, but that seems unlikely now that the high court has essentially ruled that OSHA does not have the authority to issue such an order:
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 decision on the per curium brief in favor of striking down the mandate for private employers concluded that OSHA’s powers are limited to regulating the workplace, yet COVID-19 affects more than just the workplace, which means that the pandemic falls outside of OSHA’s purview.
On the vaccine mandate for health care workers, the Court ruled:
The District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri’s November 29, 2021, order granting a preliminary injunction is stayed pending disposition of the Government’s appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and the disposition of the Government’s petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is timely sought. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this order shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the order shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court. The District Court for the Western District of Louisiana’s November 30, 2021, order granting a preliminary injunction is stayed pending disposition of the Government’s appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the disposition of the Government’s petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is timely sought. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this order shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the order shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court.
The majority agreed with the Biden administration’s argument that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has the right to order health care facilities receiving federal Medicaid and Medicare dollars to force vaccinations on its employees.
In November, Biden ordered federal contractors, employers with 100 or more employees, and healthcare workers to force their employees to either show proof of vaccination or be tested weekly and wear masks to work. Since then, employers have been scrambling to figure out how to proceed as the deadline loomed for compliance while the issue was tied up in the courts. On Monday, the mandate officially went into effect, with no guidance from the Supreme Court on how they should proceed. Many companies felt they had no choice but to begin enforcement of the policy.
The Biden administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) cited a provision in OSHA regulations that it said gave broad authority to the federal government to protect employees at private companies from workplace hazards. Detractors said the language in the regulations was never intended to be used to mandate widespread vaccinations.
States immediately began filing lawsuits claiming the mandate was unconstitutional. A Louisiana federal court swiftly blocked the mandate. But in December, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the lower court only had the authority to block the mandate in the states that had filed suit. A federal court in Texas then issued a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of the mandate for the states that filed lawsuits.
A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reinstated the vaccine mandate in mid-December, prompting a flurry of petitions to the Supreme Court for relief. The Biden administration petitioned the Supreme Court demanding a nationwide stay of the injunctions, pending a full review by the lower courts. This past Friday, the Court held an emergency hearing on the mandate for private employers as well as the one for healthcare workers.
As more details and analysis come down the line, we’ll share more with you. But in the meantime, breathe a sigh of relief that the vaccine mandate for private companies is effectively dead.
Author: Frances Rice