Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rules for Private Employers

January 13, 2022

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-testing rules for large private employers. The high court upheld a stay pending further action by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; enforcement of the employer vaccine rules is stayed until the Sixth Circuit issues a ruling. The Supreme Court gave the administration more latitude in the healthcare industry, allowing it to impose a vaccine mandate for more than 10 million healthcare workers whose facilities participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

The private-employer requirements, for businesses with 100 or more employees, would have applied to an estimated 84 million workers. The court’s conservative majority, in an unsigned opinion, said the Biden administration likely didn’t have the unilateral authority to impose a mandate that employers ensure that their workers were vaccinated or tested every week for COVID-19. Three justices dissented.

In allowing the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court’s three more liberal justices to form a 5-4 majority, allowing that requirement to take effect nationwide.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the private employer regulations in November 2021. Several parts of the regulations, including a requirement for mask-wearing in the workplace by unvaccinated individuals, were set to take effect this week, though the testing requirements weren’t scheduled to be enforced until next month.

The vaccination mandate for healthcare workers, which doesn’t include a testing alternative, was issued by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which said facilities that accept money from those programs must comply. Because of conflicting lower court rulings, that mandate had been in effect in only half the states.

Technically, the Supreme Court wasn’t considering the full merits of the administration’s mandates. Instead, the justices heard the cases on an emergency basis to decide whether the regulations could go into effect right now while more detailed litigation continues in the lower courts.

ISSA will continue to keep its members upraised on all of these COVID-19 workplace-related issues as they pertain to the cleaning industry. For more information about this ruling, please contact ISSA Director of Government Affairs John Nothdurft.