After months of uncertainty around whether large employers would be required to vaccinate or test their employees on a weekly basis, the Supreme Court settled the matter by blocking a mandate that formed a key element of the Biden administration’s plan to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The mandate, rolled out by Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in November, would have required private employers with more than 100 staff to obtain proof of vaccination from workers or test them weekly, while remote employees or those not working in the immediate vicinity of others would be eligible for exemption. The mandate would have affected more than 84 million workers, according to the administration.
In mid-November, shortly after the mandates were announced, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans the suspended the executive orders. The following month, a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit appeals court in Cincinnati ruled that the mandate for large employers appeared to be lawful.
In addition to the ruling on large employers, the court issued a verdict on a separate White House mandate requiring health care workers and federally funded facilities to be vaccinated. The administration estimates that that mandate will affect more than 17 million workers and “save hundreds or even thousands of lives each month.”
The primary issue at question in the two cases was whether the executive branch has the authority to mandate the requirements. At the state level, the Supreme Court has upheld a variety of vaccine mandates facing constitutional challenges.
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