- Supreme Court to hold a hearing Friday on arguments related to an OSHA rule on COVID-19 vaccines for employers with 100 or more workers
- Emergency temporary standard was blocked by a federal circuit court, though this stay was lifted by the decision of another federal circuit court
- The hearing will take place three days before OSHA says it will begin enforcing the provisions of the rule
Summary by Dirk Langeveld
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to convene a special hearing this week to decide whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the authority to impose a COVID-19 vaccine rule on employers with 100 or more workers.
The emergency temporary standard, issued Nov. 5, requires qualifying employers to take steps such as establishing a COVID-19 vaccination policy for the workplace, keeping a confidential record of employees’ vaccination statuses, offering paid time off for workers to get vaccinated, and requiring unvaccinated employees to wear a mask when working alongside others. Employers must also set up a procedure requiring employees to either get vaccinated or test weekly for COVID-19.
The rule initially set Dec. 5 for most of the requirements and Jan. 4 for the test-or-vaccinate requirement, but implementation and enforcement was established after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit blocked the measure. A judicial panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit lifted this stay.
OSHA moved up its deadlines after the Sixth Court decision, and the Supreme Court hearing will take place three days before the agency says it will begin enforcing most aspects of the rule. Enforcement of the test-or-vaccinate requirement will begin Feb. 9.
- The Supreme Court has previously upheld several state-level vaccine mandates, but this hearing will address arguments about rules issued at the federal level
- Under a 1970 law, OSHA has the ability to issue emergency temporary standards to address hazards that present a “grave danger” to workers
- The White House has asked the Supreme Court to uphold the Sixth Circuit’s decision, saying further delays to the OSHA rule “will result in unnecessary illness, hospitalizations, and deaths because of workplace exposure”
- Opponents to the OSHA rule argue that it impinges on states’ rights regarding public health, should have been authorized by Congress, or lacks a proper public comment period
- Some have argued that the rule creates economic risks for employers due to the potential for fines and worker resignations, while labor groups have argued that the rule should extend to smaller employers as well
- The Supreme Court will also address legal challenges to a federal COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers at hospitals receiving federal money