The Supreme Court of the United States Blocks Federal OSHA Mandate

CATEGORY: Special Bulletins
CLIENT TYPE: Nonprofit, Private Education, Public Education, Public Employers, Public Safety
PUBLICATION: LCW Special Bulletin
DATE: Jan 19, 2022

On January 13, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States issued two separate rulings in matters related to COVID-19.

The purpose of this bulletin is to explain those decisions and their import for employers in California.

Court Blocks Federal Vaccination/Test Mandate

In the most anticipated decision, the Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, stayed a rule promulgated by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) that would have required private employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees were either fully vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.[1] The Court’s decision held that OSHA exceeded its statutory authority when it created the rule, which the majority held was a “broad public health measure” rather than a “workplace safety standard.”[2]

In California, it remains to be seen whether the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“OSHSB”), which disseminates workplace safety standards for employers in the state, will adopt vaccination/testing requirements similar to that issued by federal OSHA. Until OSHSB undertakes such an action, most employers[3] in the state will have discretionary authority to decide whether to require their employees be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19.

Employers may still choose to mandate vaccinations for their employees, subject to their obligations to reasonably accommodate employees who are unable to be vaccinated due to disability or a sincerely held religious belief.

Court Upholds Vaccination Mandate for Health Care Facilities

In the second decision, the Supreme Court upheld a rule[4] issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) that requires health care facilities to ensure that their staff is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition to receive funding from CMS. The Court’s decision[5] allows CMS to begin enforcing the vaccination requirement at approximately 76,000 covered facilities.

In California, this decision should have minimal impact since the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) already requires[6] that health care facilities ensure their workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Liebert Cassidy Whitmore attorneys will be monitoring the actions of the OSHSB and the CDPH for any   new regulations and health orders that may apply to employers in the state.

[1] Previously, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had placed an emergency stay on these regulations.

[2] 595 U.S. __ (2022), Slip Opinion, p. 6, available at the following web address: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/21a244_hgci.pdf?ftag=MSF0951a18

[3] Certain employers, such as health care facilities, are currently required to ensure that their employees are fully vaccinated due to state orders to that effect. (See California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) “Health Care Worker Vaccination Requirement,” https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Order-of-the-State-Public-Health-Officer-Health-Care-Worker-Vaccine-Requirement.aspx (Last updated on December 22, 2021).)

[4] 595 U.S. __ (2022), Slip Opinion, p. 1, available at the following web address: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/21a240_d18e.pdf

[5] In one case, a federal District Court in Missouri blocked enforcement of the mandate in 10 states that challenged the CMS rule. In a separate case, a federal District Court in Louisiana issued an injunction preventing CMS enforcement of the rule nationwide.

[6] California Department of Public Health, “Health Care Worker Vaccine Requirement,” December 22, 2021, available at the following web address: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Order-of-the-State-Public-Health-Officer-Health-Care-Worker-Vaccine-Requirement.aspx

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