The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s rule to have large employers either vaccinate their employees against COVID-19 or regularly test them and wear masks while on the job.
According to the Associated Press, the court’s conservative majority argued the Biden administration overstepped its authority by having the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforce the vaccinate-or-test rule through an emergency temporary standard (ETS). The rule would apply to employers with 100 or more employees.
Meanwhile, the court’s three liberal judges argued that it was the court that was overstepping, claiming it was issuing a judgement in place of health experts.
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) stated it will remain engaged with the proceedings with its lawsuit challenging the ETS.
“Even with the Supreme Court’s decision on the stay, the ETS litigation is far from over,” the AGC states on its website. “The Sixth Circuit has yet to consider the merits of the ETS, which could take months. Rest assured, AGC of America remains actively engaged in the litigation, having filed its Construction Advocacy Fund-backed lawsuit against the ETS on Nov. 15, 2021.”
The Supreme Court’s decision comes at a time where the Omicron variant is causing surges in cases around the country.
“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” said President Joe Biden.
The OSHA ETS had previously been blocked by the New Orleans U.S. Circuit Court last November, but in a shocking turn of events, was reinstated by the Sixth Circuit Court on Dec. 17. OSHA estimated the ETS could save more than 6,500 lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations in the six months that it would be in effect.
“OSHA stands by the Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard as the best way to protect the nation’s workforce from a deadly virus that is infecting more than 750,000 Americans each day and has taken the lives of nearly a million Americans," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.
The Biden administration is urging employers to require workers to get vaccinated or test weekly to fight the spread of COVID-19, noting that multiple Fortune 100 companies have already done so.
“Regardless of the ultimate outcome of these proceedings, OSHA will do everything in its existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers, including under the Covid-19 National Emphasis Program and General Duty Clause,” Walsh said.
On the same day as the Supreme Court’s decision, the administration announced it is stepping up its response to the coronavirus surge driven by Omicron, including purchasing an additional 500 million tests to distribute to Americans, doubling its original purchase. The administration is also deploying more than 120 military medical personnel to six hard-hit states: Michigan, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Rhode Island.