Editor’s Note: News and updates surrounding COVID-19 vaccination mandates continue to evolve rapidly. Check back for news on the Mployer Advisor blog as developments unfold. For state-specific guidance, please refer to OSHA’s site here.
On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to block the Biden administration’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccine mandate that targeted large employers. Previously, the mandate required that businesses with 100 or more employees implement a vaccination requirement for workers or require a weekly testing alternative.
However, in a separate ruling, the court did uphold the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rule, which requires vaccination of all healthcare workers at CMS-covered facilities. The CMS mandate is expected to cover more than 10.4 million healthcare workers across 76,000 facilities nationwide.
In a statement following the ruling, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said, “I am disappointed in the court’s decision, which is a major setback to the health and safety of workers across the country.”
The court’s decision comes as Omicron rates surge to unprecedented heights across the nation, reaching all-time highs and infecting more than 750,000 Americans each day. To date, OSHA estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed nearly one million lives.
“The commonsense standards established in the ETS [emergency temporary standard] remain critical, especially during the current surge, where unvaccinated people are 15-20 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated people,” Walsh said. “OSHA will be evaluating all options to ensure workers are protected from this deadly virus.”
Following Thursday’s decision, the White House released a statement from President Biden that noted his “disappointment” at the court’s decision to “block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses.”
“As a result of the court’s decision, it is now up to states and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated,” Biden said. “I call on business leaders to immediately join those who have already stepped up – including one-third of Fortune 100 companies – and institute vaccination requirements to protect their workers, customers, and communities.”
Now, the decision to require a COVID-19 vaccine or institute testing requirements is back in the hands of employers nationwide.