Supreme Court Blocks COVID-19 Vaccine Rules for Large Employers

Jan. 13, 2022

The Supreme Court has blocked the Biden Administration's rule requiring larger businesses to ensure that workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine or wear masks and get tested on a weekly basis.

The workplace rule, announced last fall by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), required companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers either get vaccinated or wear masks and show negative COVID-19 test results at least once a week.

The rule would have covered nearly 80 million American workers.

The court did say in a separate mandate that requiring vaccinations for an estimated 20 million health care workers can be enforced.

"Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly," the court's majority wrote. "Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category."

In their dissent, three justices on the court said OSHA was well within its authority and expertise to impose the mandates, unlike the court, which they said was "lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes."

"In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible. Without legal basis, the court usurps a decision that rightfully belongs to others. It undercuts the capacity of the responsible federal officials, acting well within the scope of their authority, to protect American workers from grave danger."

The Biden administration's workplace rule, announced in November, was immediately challenged by a group of states and businesses that said the government lacked the power to issue such a sweeping mandate. Lower courts initially blocked the requirement, but a later ruling allowed it to go into effect.