The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its sweeping vaccine or testing requirements for large private companies, but allowed similar requirements for medical facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid payments.
The decisions came three days after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency measure began to take effect.
This mandate required that workers in companies with 100 or more employees be vaccinated or submit a negative Covid test each week to enter the workplace. It also required unvaccinated workers to wear masks indoors at work.
“While Congress unquestionably gave OSHA the power to regulate occupational hazards, it did not give this agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion.
“Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls into the latter category,” the court wrote.
A protester holds a ‘Freedoms and warrants don’t mix’ sign outside the United States Supreme Court during arguments over two federal coronavirus vaccine mandate measures in Washington, DC, U.S., Friday, January 7 2022.
Al-Draco | Bloomberg | Getty Images
But in a separate, concurrently released ruling on the administration’s vaccination rules for healthcare workers, the court wrote: “We agree with the government that the [Health and Human Services] The power of the Secretary rests with the powers given to him by Congress.”
OSHA, which monitors workplace safety for the Department of Labor, issued the warrants under its emergency authority established by Congress. OSHA can shorten the normal rule-making process, which can take years, if the Secretary of Labor determines that a new workplace safety standard is needed to protect workers from serious harm.
The Biden administration argued in the High Court on Friday that the rules were necessary to deal with the “grave danger” posed by the Covid pandemic. The liberal justices, clearly in favor of the government’s position, pointed to the devastating death toll of the pandemic and the unprecedented wave of infection sweeping through the country due to the omicron variant.
But the court’s 6-3 conservative majority expressed deep skepticism about the federal government’s decision.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, said during oral argument that he thought it was difficult to argue that the 1970 law governing OSHA “gave free rein to agencies to adopt such broad regulation”.
The vaccine or test rules have faced a series of lawsuits from 27 states with Republican attorneys general or governors, private companies, religious groups and national industry groups such as the National Retail Federation, American Trucking Associations and the National Federation of Independent Business.
The warrants have been the most extensive use of power by the federal government to protect Covid workers since the pandemic began.
This is breaking news. Please check for updates.