The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s proposed requirement that employees at large businesses either be vaccinated against Covid-19, or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job. The justices heard arguments on the challenges last week. Their questions then hinted at the split verdict they issued Thursday.
However, the court is allowing the administration’s vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S.
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose OSHA’s vaccine-or-test rule on businesses with at least 100 employees, which would have affected over 80 million workers. Some business groups attacked the OSHA emergency regulation as too expensive and likely to cause workers to leave their jobs at a time when finding new employees already is difficult.
Conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion: “OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. 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.
The court’s three liberals argued that the court was overreaching by substituting its judgment for that of health experts. “Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent.
Despite legal challenges, the Biden administration still views the rule as a success at already encouraging millions of people to get vaccinated and for private businesses to implement their own requirements that are unaffected by the legal challenge.
The mandate that the court will allow to be enforced covers virtually all health care workers in the country. It applies to health care providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding, potentially affecting 76,000 health care facilities as well as home health care providers, and has medical and religious exemptions.
Current data from the CDC shows 62.7 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, with more than a third of those having received booster doses. All nine U.S. Supreme Court justices have gotten booster shots.