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Supreme Court Blocks OSHA Vaccine Rules for Large Employers While Upholding Mandate for Healthcare Workers

The Supreme Court has recently ruled on two vaccine mandates promulgated by President Biden’s administration. Both decisions were decided on a 5-4 basis with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh providing the swing votes in two different types of Covid-19 vaccine cases.

President Biden at a PodiumWorkplace Vaccine Mandate

The Supreme Court put the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s workplace vaccinate mandate on hold while the Sixth Circuit hears arguments as to its ultimate constitutionality. The “vaccine mandate” required that all employers with 100 or more employees compel their employees to either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or to be tested weekly and wear masks at work.

The federal government expected the mandate to cover 84 million workers and save over 6,500 lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations. The mandate’s challengers argued that the mandate would cost the states and employers billions of dollars and would prompt hundreds of thousands of employees to quit. The majority believed that the mandate exceeded the executive branch’s authority and that Congress was the appropriate branch to make such a law.

Healthcare Vaccine Mandate

The Supreme Court permitted the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) vaccine mandate to proceed, which requires all healthcare providers who care for Medicare and Medicaid patients to compel their employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The healthcare worker vaccine mandate was upheld because the DHHS has a history of requiring vaccinations (which OSHA does not) and because Medicare patients over 65 years of age are particularly vulnerable to a contagious respiratory disease that can be transmitted from healthcare workers to patients.

A Slippery Slope

The Court’s ruling on the OSHA regulations potentially opens the door to further lawsuits regarding workplace regulations in the future. OSHA makes regulations regarding everything from hand washing to placement of safety cones. However, the Court’s reasoning did not efficiently differentiate between Covid vaccinations and other OSHA regulations.

While it may be possible to get Covid outside of the workplace, the same is true with preventing disease by washing hands. Similarly, ladder safety, power tool safety, first aid, and other safety measures are not limited to construction sites or workplaces. The “workplace” test that the Court promulgated will be utterly worthless in stopping the flood of potential lawsuits that the Court has invited. Freedom from a vaccine mandate may lead to more worksite accidents and greater danger to employees and the public alike.

Instead, the Court should have focused on the temporal nature of the pandemic. Presumably, the pandemic must end at some point such that the emergency powers that state and federal government must recede. Establishing a sunset for the vaccinate mandate would be more effective than attempting to carve out parts of OSHA’s authority. A definite expiration date for Covid mandates would be clearer and less chaotic than the path that the Court chose with this ruling.

Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?

If you believe that your employer has violated your legal rights as a worker or some other employment law, then you should hire a skilled employment lawyer for further assistance. An employment law attorney can protect your interests and defend your rights under the law. Your attorney can also assist you in filing a lawsuit against an employer and in recovering damages for any losses that you suffered. Alternatively, if you are an employer who is being used by an employee, then you should hire an employment law attorney immediately to represent you in court.


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