The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine or testing requirement aimed at businesses, but it allowed a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers to go into effect nationwide.
The majority of justices, 6-3, sent a clear message that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), charged with protecting workplace safety, overstepped its authority in issuing such a broad emergency directive, impacting millions of workers.
In contrast, the justices said that a separate agency could issue a rule to protect the health and safety of Medicare and Medicaid patients.
“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category,” the unsigned opinion in the businesses case says.
“Neither CMS nor the Court articulates a limiting principle for why, after an un-explained and unjustified delay, an agency can regulate first and listen later, and then put more than 10 million healthcare workers to the choice of their jobs or an irreversible medical treatment,” Justice Sam Alito wrote for the majority.
Leftist Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan issued a dissent.
“When we are wise, we know not to displace the judgments of experts, acting within the sphere Congress marked out and under Presidential control, to deal with emergency conditions,” they wrote. “Today, we are not wise. In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible.”
The rule would impact some 80 million individuals and requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work.
There were exceptions for those with religious objections.
The Biden administration defended the regulation and argued that the nation is facing a pandemic “that is sickening and killing thousands of workers around the country” and that any delay in implementing the requirement to get a vaccine or submit to regular testing “will result in unnecessary illness, hospitalizations and death.”