WASHINGTON D.C., January 13, 2022 – Today, U.S. Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate initiative for the workforce of any business with 100 or more employees but upheld the initiative to require Healthcare Workers to be fully vaccinated. (To view the initiatives as explained by the Biden Administration, click here).
U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Workforce Mandate
In a vote of 6 to 3, the Supreme Court ruled against Biden’s workforce vaccine mandate, disputing The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) power to implement such requirements. The vote was split down ideological lines, with justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen G. Breyer dissenting.
“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” the majority stated in an unsigned opinion. “Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category.”
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kegan, defended OSHA’s right to fulfill its responsibilities in their dissenting opinion. Stating that OSHA is “charged with ensuring health and safety in workplaces,” the Justices believe that requiring vaccination or testing “falls within the core of the agency’s mission.”
The dissenting opinion concludes that the “Court’s order seriously misapplies the applicable legal standards. And in so doing, it stymies the Federal Government’s ability to counter the unparalleled threat that COVID–19 poses to our Nation’s workers.”
The Court upholds vaccine mandate for Healthcare workers
The Court, in a vote of 5 to 4, upheld the vaccine mandate for Healthcare workers, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh siding with their liberal colleagues.
Led by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the initiative requires all Healthcare Workers at Medicare and Medicaid Participating hospitals and other health care settings to be fully vaccinated. The Court upheld this initiative due to CMS’s reliance on federal funding and the long-standing precedent of imposing similar measures.
After noting the “long lists of detailed conditions with which facilities must comply to be eligible to receive Medicare and Medicaid funds,” the unsigned majority opinion states that “Such conditions have long included a requirement that certain providers maintain and enforce an ‘infection prevention and control program designed . . . to help prevent the development and transmission of communicable diseases and infections.’”
The Court also ruled in favor of CMS’s mandate due to the high risk factors involved in the healthcare field. “The rule thus fits neatly within the language of the statute. After all, ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: first, do no harm,” the opinion continued, explaining how healthcare facilities that spread infection would be the “very opposite of efficient and effective.”
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas, stated that “These cases are not about the efficacy or importance of COVID–19 vaccines. They are only about whether CMS has the statutory authority to force healthcare workers, by coercing their employers, to undergo a medical procedure they do not want and cannot undo.”