Many employers, with 100 or more employees, were preparing to implement a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination or testing policy consistent with the Biden administration’s proposed rule. The proposed regulation was to be enforced by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). However, employers received relief from the administrative burden of enforcing the rule. On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Administration’s vaccination-or-testing mandate.
The Court voted 6 to 3 in favor of invalidating the regulation. The Court found that, while OSHA does have the power to regulate occupational dangers, Congress did not grant the agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. However, in a 5 to 4 vote, the Court did uphold mandatory vaccinations for employees of Medicare and Medicaid providers.
It appears settled that a federal vaccination mandate for larger employers cannot be enforced through OSHA as the Biden administration intended. However, state and local mandates have continued to remain in effect, such as California’s mandate for healthcare workers.
What remains unclear is what California OSHA’s (“Cal/OSHA) reaction to the Court’s ruling will be. Cal/OSHA had indicated that it would have adopted the Biden Administration’s proposed vaccination-or-testing rule when it became a final regulation. While it doesn’t appear that OSHA has the authority to enforce the rule, Cal/OSHA is still permitted to enact standards more protective for workers than the OSHA regulations. It remains to be seen if Cal/OSHA will attempt to enact its own version of the vaccination-or-testing regulation and whether that would be upheld by the courts.
The attorneys at RPNA continue to monitor the myriad of vaccination and COVID-19 regulations as they are issued and revised. If you have any questions about vaccination or testing rules, please contact Nicholas Roxborough at (818) 992-9999, ext. 222, Drew Pomerance at ext. 212, Michael Adreani, at ext. 234, Marina Vitek, at ext. 236, or Trevor Witt, at ext. 224.