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The Supreme Court has stayed the OSHA’s vaccine-or-test mandate for large private employers, while litigation over its legality continues in the lower courts. Over a dissent from the Court’s three liberal justices, the court ruled that OSHA exceeded its congressionally granted authority in issuing such a sweeping mandate. In a separately issued decision, the Court by a 5-4 vote permitted a vaccination mandate covering health care workers at facilities receiving federal funding through Medicare or Medicaid programs to go into effect.

Six Justices agreed that OSHA exceeded its statutory authority to impose universal COVID-19 safety standards under its power to issue emergency temporary standards. The Court described the vaccine-or-test rule as a “blunt instrument,” that draws no distinctions based on specific industry or actual risk of exposure. Taking the opportunity to articulate its view of OSHA’s role, the Court explained that OSHA’s authority is limited to regulating workplace hazards and Congress “has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly.” Because COVID-19 is not a uniquely occupational hazard (i.e. people can catch it anywhere), the vaccine mandate exceeded OSHA’s authority, the Court reasoned.

OSHA issued the vaccine mandate at the center of the case back in November 2021. Under the mandate, all employers with 100 or more employees were required to compel their employees to either get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or to be tested weekly and mask up while at work. The mandate covered approximately 84 million workers. Continue reading ›

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