The Supreme Court today blocked the Biden administration’s mandate that would have required COVID vaccines or frequent testing at employers with 100+ employees. The vote was 6-3.
The mandate would have required workers at large employers to be vaccinated or to wear masks and be tested weekly at their own expense. There were exceptions for those with religious objections or who work remotely or outdoors. The case made it to the Supreme Court after the mandate being blocked by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then reinstated by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
At issue was whether OSHA had the right to issue the mandate. SCOTUS concluded that it does not, with Justice Kavanaugh writing in his majority opinion that OSHA is responsible for setting workplace safety standards, not public health measures. He notes that “no provision of the [Occupational Safety and Health] Act addresses public health more generally, which falls outside of OSHA’s sphere of influence.”
In their dissent, Justices Breyer, Sotomayer, and Kagan argued that COVID “causes harm in nearly all workplace environments” and that just because COVID poses risks outside of the workplace doesn’t invalidate OSHA’s authority to regulate the risk inside the workplace.