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The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling today that places a stay on enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing. The stay is now pending disposition of applicants’ appeals for review in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a prior ruling, the Sixth Circuit concluded that a stay of the standard was not justified; six Supreme Court justices disagreed with that decision.
The ETS would require workers in private companies with more than 100 employees to be vaccinated or obtain weekly diagnostic testing and wear a mask in the workplace. The ruling was made in the case of National Federation of Independent Business, et al. v. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, et al. The majority found that OSHA exceeded its regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization. The minority argued that the wiser course for the county would have been for the court to defer to workplace health and safety experts at OSHA.
“Today’s decision is welcome relief for America’s small businesses, who are still trying to get their business back on track since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center. “We are pleased the Supreme Court stopped the rule from taking effect while the courts consider whether or not it is legal. We are optimistic that the courts will ultimately agree with us that OSHA does not have the emergency authority to regulate the entire American workforce.”
U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said: “I am disappointed in the court’s decision, which is a major setback to the health and safety of workers across the country. OSHA stands by the (ETS) 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. OSHA promulgated the ETS under clear authority established by Congress to protect workers facing grave danger in the workplace, and COVID is without doubt such a danger.”
Walsh urged employers to require workers to get vaccinated or tested weekly and noted that OSHA will hold businesses accountable for protecting workers under the Covid-19 National Emphasis Program and General Duty Clause.
In another case, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., President of the United States, et al. v. Missouri, et al., the court ruled the government’s vaccine mandate for workers at federally funded health care facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid can take effect. The vaccination rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will apply to 15 different kinds of health facilities. It provides exemptions for medical and religious reasons.
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