On January 13, 2022, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) issued a decision on the Biden administration’s intended vaccine and testing mandate. The Court blocked the mandate for companies with 100 or more employees, but did permit a vaccine mandate for employees working in healthcare facilities that receive federal funding from Medicare or Medicaid. The vaccine mandate for healthcare workers has been allowed to go into effect nationwide.
Understanding the Ruling
In making the decision, the Court cited that the vaccine and test mandate for large companies would be an overreach on the part of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The Court categorized the COVID-19 pandemic as a universal, public health threat rather than a workplace hazard and argued that OSHA does not possess the authority to regulate the everyday risk of possibly contracting COVID-19. Once again, the determination of vaccine mandates and policies will be up to States and individual employers.
The Vaccine Mandate for Healthcare Workers
In the second arm of the SCOTUS decision, the Court upheld the applicability of the CMS Interim Final Rule. This implemented a vaccine mandate for employees of Medicare and Medicaid certified healthcare facilities. The Court acknowledged the power of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to place conditions and requirements upon any healthcare facility that participates in their programs, especially those that are necessary for the health and safety of individuals employed in healthcare facilities.
How the Ruling Impacts the Mandate for Federal Workers
Since the Biden administration handed down a vaccine mandate for federal employees, there have been dozens of cases in federal courts seeking to strike it down. The decision by SCOTUS could be a large influence in the ongoing debate over vaccine mandates for the federal workforce, despite overwhelming compliance with the directive. The two-pronged ruling creates a new question for federal contractors subject to vaccine mandates. The ruling limits the statutory authority of a rule focused on the private sector, but acknowledges the authority of federal agencies to set the conditions by which partners, programs, and contractors may receive funds.
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