Supreme Court blocks Biden’s plan for employer vaccination mandates

In a blow to President Joe Biden’s campaign to fight Covid, the United States Supreme Court today blocked implementation of his plan to compel employers of more than 100 workers to get them vaccinated against Covid-19 or to be tested weekly for the virus.

During oral arguments in court last week, opponents of the warrants told justices the requirements would cost businesses billions of dollars, impose administrative hardship on businesses and organizations and force many people out of their jobs.

United States Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the judges told judges that Biden’s warrants would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over the next six months, and that exposure to Covid-19 is the greatest threat to workers in OHSA history .

Forbes rindicated that the proposed warrant would now be up to the lower courts to decide whether it would be permanently upheld or invalidated.

Covid-19 has proven to be that rare crisis that has faced a series of political and legal challenges that have delayed or weakened efforts to deal with it.

“A huge sigh of relief”

Jackie Gessner is a partner at Barnes & Thornburg, where she focuses on employment counseling and litigation, as well as OSHA compliance. She said today’s decision, “…is a huge sigh of relief for companies already grappling with the difficult task of dealing with the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace.”

“Companies were struggling to manage a large number of exemption requests and the seemingly impossible task of administering weekly tests, especially given the shortage of test supplies. This decision returns decision-making power to individual companies, often better equipped to identify the best security solutions for their workforce,” according to Gessner.

Unsigned notice

In an unsigned opinion, the court wrote that “although Congress has unquestionably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational hazards, it has not given this agency the power to regulate public health more wide,” the court wrote in an unsigned notice.

“Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls into the latter category,” the court said.

“A dazzling dissidence”

Liberal judges Stephane Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan issued a searing dissent, according to CNN.

“When one is wise, one knows not to displace the judgments of experts, acting within the sphere delimited by Congress and under presidential control, to deal with emergency situations”, they write.

“Today we are unwise. In the face of a pandemic that is still raging, this Court is telling the agency responsible for protecting worker safety that it cannot do so in all necessary workplaces. As sickness and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency it cannot respond in the most effective way possible.”

The decision was simple and practical

Michael Elkin, partner and founder of MLE law, said today’s ruling was “…one of the most anticipated employment rulings in recent memory…”. implement broad public health measures, which she says is OSHA’s rule.

“The Court rightly points out that Covid is more of a universal hazard than a unique workplace hazard. Basically, the Court found that OSHA went too far and exceeded its powers. In striking down this rule, the Court noted that OSHA can likely regulate certain industries or jobs, such as researchers working with Covid-19, or the risks of working in particularly cramped or crowded environments,” he said. he commented.

“Ultimately, I see this as a practical decision, focusing on the idea that OSHA doesn’t have this extremely broad regulatory authority,” Elkins concluded.

Employers are now free to set their own requirements

David Gordon, partner of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, said: “With today’s SCOTUS ruling, employers will now be free to set their own requirements, subject to applicable state and local laws. Had the Supreme Court upheld OSHA’s requirement, local rules would have been preempted and large employers would have been forced to ignore them.

Significant impact on the labor market

“This decision has a significant impact on the labor market, as it is no longer a level playing field for large employers when it comes to recruitment. Now, if a large employer feels it would be beneficial not to require employees to be vaccinated, they will be free not to adopt a vaccination mandate if this is permitted where they are,” he said. .

Where the decision makes no difference

“This decision makes no difference to employers in New York and employers in other jurisdictions who will require all employees to be vaccinated. Employers in these locations will still be subject to applicable vaccination mandates,” Gordon noted.

If the warrants were left in place

Jeff Levin-Scherz, MD, head of population health at Willis Towers Watson, said, “Our a recent survey suggests that many more employers would have pursued vaccination mandates had the rule remained in place.

“Many employers had mandates in place already and we believe many will continue to do so where permitted. The omicron variant has proven to be so contagious that it will take very high vaccination rates to suppress outbreaks.

“Vaccines help employers reduce the risk of infection in the workplace and the risk of workplace disruption because those who are fully vaccinated are not only less likely to be infected, they have no no longer need to quarantine if they are exposed at work or outside of work,” he observed.

“Employers continue to be at the forefront of efforts to make it easier for employees to get vaccinated, including providing flexible hours, paid time off for vaccination and recuperation. Some have offered vaccination on the spot.

“Vaccinations are an important part of employers’ efforts to protect workers. Employers can also reduce the risk of Covid transmission through increased ventilation, decreased worker density and indoor masking,” Levin-Scherz concluded.