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January 13, 2022

Supreme Court Blocks OSHA Vaccine/Testing Mandate for
Large, Private Companies

In a 6-3 decision on Thursday, January 13, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden Administration from enforcing OSHA’s emergency mandate for vaccines/testing for large, private companies. In its opinion, the Court stated that “the Act empowers the Secretary to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures.” That view is not limited to OSHA’s emergency powers, and from the rest of the majority opinion it would be hard to argue that the Court would allow imposition of the vaccine requirement in any context. The White House released the following statement in response to the Court’s decision:

“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.”

As a federal matter, this decision appears to resolve the issue for private employers outside of the health care and government contractor context, given OSHA’s limited authority over the general public. The ruling has likely closed the door on any type of generally imposed federal vaccination mandate. However, requirements in targeted environments where the risk is higher (a factory or manufacturing plant, for example), are still on the table. In a separate opinion, the Court upheld the ability of CMS to impose the requirement on Medicare and Medicaid recipient facilities.

The Council will continue to review the Court’s opinion, as well as any further developments on this matter, and will update our members as appropriate.