On January 13, the U.S. Supreme Court (S.C.) halted the vaccine mandate imposed by OSHA in November 2021. Several businesses and associations are lauding the stay, from the Food Industry Association and the National Retail Foundation to the National Federation of Independent Businesses. However, the mandate still applies to healthcare companies - the court ruled 5-4 that healthcare workers must either get vaccinated or agree to get tested every week and wear masks.
The Supreme Court's decision does not prevent employers from imposing COVID-19 rules on their staff. Private companies have the right to require masks and vaccinations in their offices.
The court's ruling halted the present administration's vaccine-or-test mandate for large businesses on the grounds that OSHA overstepped its legal jurisdiction and infringed upon the lives of employees. OSHA regulates workplace safety and occupational dangers, which the S.C. deemed did not include public or broad health measures.
While some companies like General Electric have revised their policies and suspended vaccine requirements, others like United Airlines have decided to continue mandating vaccinations among their employees.
If you, as an employer, believe that vaccination is crucial to the safety of your employees and customers, you have the freedom to mandate employee vaccination within your workplace. But the S.C. ruling now gives employers relief and freedom to toss out vaccination policies altogether if the requirements pose more of a threat to the labor force than a blessing.
Although the mandate is halted, it is still only a temporary stay. OSHA could return with a narrower rule that targets what they consider high-risk environments, stating that the department would do everything in its power to ensure businesses are held accountable for protecting workers against COVID.
Right now, the case has been sent back to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which means a new decision could emerge. Employers should continue monitoring legal updates and stay informed about final rulings or changes on the emergency temporary standard.