On Thursday, January 13, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to block the Biden administration’s vaccine or testing mandate for large employers. This decision marks the end of the legal battle over the current iteration of the vaccine-or-test mandate.
The court voted 6-3 to block the employer vaccine-or-test mandate. The Supreme Court approved a more limited mandate, which requires employees of healthcare facilities that receive federal funds to be vaccinated.
President Biden first unveiled the “Path out of the Pandemic” on September 9, 2021. The key component of this plan was a vaccine-or-test mandate for all U.S. businesses which employ 100 or more employees. The mandate would have required all employees at these businesses to be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19. Also included in the initial proposal was a requirement for all employees of healthcare facilities that receive federal money to be vaccinated.
Following the initial announcement of the mandate, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on November 4, 2021, which detailed the enforcement mechanism and penalties for businesses under the proposed vaccine-or-test mandate.
Under the ETS, business employers with 100 or more employees would have to verify that all of their employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4, 2022. Those individuals who are not fully vaccinated by January 4 would have to produce a verified negative test to their employers every week. The rule did not require employers to pay for the tests, though in some cases, agreements with unions might require employers to pay for tests for unvaccinated employees. Following the rule, employers would have to keep documentation of workers’ vaccination status as OSHA will actively inspect businesses.