In National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, the United States Supreme Court blocked the federal government’s vaccine-or-test requirement for workplaces of 100 or more employees for the foreseeable future.
On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a new plan to require more Americans to be vaccinated. As a component of that plan, the Secretary of Labor, acting through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), issued a vaccine mandate for private employers with 100 or more employees that requires covered workers to receive the COVID–19 vaccine or obtain a medical test each week and wear a mask at work.
Today, in a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court stayed the vaccine mandate, concluding that the challengers to the emergency rule are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Secretary lacked authority to impose the mandate. The Court held that the Secretary’s order compelling millions of Americans either to obtain a COVID–19 vaccine or undergo weekly medical testing at their own expense exceeds the authority conveyed by Congress.
The Court’s opinion noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Act empowers the Secretary to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures. The Court held that allowing this mandate would permit OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life and would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization. Ultimately, the Court held that although COVID–19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard but a risk to all in general. The Court held that the mandate takes on the character of a general public health measure, rather than an “occupational safety or health standard.”
As a result, the Supreme Court issued a stay of the mandate. Technically, this is a temporary stay that will remain in place while the parties continue to fight in lower courts over whether the emergency rule is valid.
What does this mean for your business? At this time, implementation of a vaccine mandate remains your choice based on your specific circumstances subject to the legally recognized exceptions.
For additional information regarding this case or the current status of vaccine mandates applicable to your business in general, please contact the attorneys & authors, Mary-Ellen Allen and Jake Becker of Lamb McErlane PC at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, 610-430-8000. lambmcerlane.com
Mary-Ellen H. Allen is co-chair of the Employment Law Department and a member of the litigation department. She concentrates her practice in employment law and commercial litigation.
Jake Becker’s practice includes representing employers and individuals in a wide array of employment law-related matters.