On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that set aside the OSHA mandate requiring a COVID-19 vaccination of all employees of businesses with more than 100 employees.
In 2021, OSHA issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) that obligated employers of 100 or more employees to require COVID-19 vaccination, or if unvaccinated, employees would be subjected to weekly testing and mandatory masking. OSHA issued guidance setting forth the requirements for compliance with the ETS.
The Exceptions to a Ruling from the High Court
While employers were preparing to comply with OSHA’s ETS, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 opinion relieves covered employers from having the ensure compliance with the mandate and its requirements. While the Supreme Court’s opinion removed the federal mandate, the opinion does not prohibit employers from requiring COVID vaccines. Employers are still permitted to require COVID vaccines, subject to accommodation for religious and medical exemptions. However, employers that do require COVID vaccines must ensure compliance with the laws of states that prohibit employers from requiring vaccines as a condition of employment. The Supreme Court’s opinion does not directly address how conflicting state laws are impacted by its ruling on the ETS. Read more about the Executive Order from Governor Greg Abbott to see how this is impacting Texas.
What about Healthcare Workers?
The Supreme Court opinion also allows the healthcare workers vaccine mandate issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) to go into effect. This means healthcare workers who care for Medicare and Medicaid patients are still required to be vaccinated.
The Supreme Court’s opinion means that employers (no matter the number of employees) are not mandated under federal law to require employees to be vaccinated. However, the opinion leaves untouched the laws at the State or local level—meaning some employers are still subject to those State and local laws that mandate vaccines or prohibit such mandates.