The Supreme Court Thursday put a halt to the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test requirement for large businesses.
The court is allowing a vaccine mandate for most of the health care workers in the U.S. to proceed. After the ruling, the White House said its mandate for health care workers will save lives and will be enforced.
“At the same time, I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
The lawsuit challenging the business mandate successfully argued the mandate Biden administration overstepped the authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration by seeking to impose a vaccination requirement. More than 80 million workers would have been impacted by the mandate.
“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate,” the court’s conservatives wrote in their opinion. “Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here.”
If the mandate for large businesses were to have taken effect, unvaccinated employees would have been required to wear masks at work and test negative for COVID-19 each week.
The court’s three liberal justices dissented, arguing COVID-19 poses grave dangers to American workers, and OSHA is well within its right to ensure health and safety in workplaces by enforcing a vaccine-or-test rule.
“COVID–19, in short, is a menace in work settings,” the liberal justices wrote. “The proof is all around us: Since the disease’s onset, most Americans have seen their workplaces transformed. So the administrative agency charged with ensuring health and safety in American workplaces did what Congress commanded it to: It took action to address COVID–19’s continuing threat in those spaces.”
The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council said the decision will help businesses keep their doors open and employees and customers safe.
“With this cloud of uncertainty gone for most employers, the small to mid-size community can focus a little more clearly on keeping their doors open, their employees and customers safe, and helping the economy heal and recover,” the organization said in a statement. “Our hope moving forward is that President Biden and his team now work with the business community on their core issues of concern and advance policies and strategies that support America’s businesses, rather than undermine their ability to survive and recover.”
The court, however, will allow a vaccine mandate covering virtually all health care workers in the U.S. to take effect. It covers all providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funds, impacting thousands of facilities and at-home health care providers. It allows for religious and medical exemptions.
Five justices agreed the secretary of Health and Human Services has the legal authority to impose a vaccine mandate due to the risk of spreading COVID-19 to patients.
“One such function—perhaps the most basic, given the Department’s core mission—is to ensure that the healthcare providers who care for Medicare and Medicaid patients protect their patients’ health and safety,” the justices wrote. “To that end, Congress authorized the Secretary to promulgate, as a condition of a facility’s participation in the programs, such ‘requirements as [he] finds necessary in the interest of the health and safety of individuals who are furnished services in the institution.’”