Here's what the Supreme Court's halt on big business vaccine mandates means for workers

After the Supreme Court ruled to block a vaccine-or-test mandate for large businesses, many employees wonder whether companies will continue to impose COVID-19 jab requirements.

The Biden administration vaccine measure, halted by the Supreme Court on Thursday by a 6-3 vote, would have affected employers with 100 or more workers. The decision, split along ideological lines, came days after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's emergency measure took effect.

Had the Supreme Court not issued a ruling by Feb. 9, the measure would have required more than 84 million workers in the private sector to either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or subject themselves to weekly testing, to which justices ruled Congress should have been in charge of implementing such a measure.

"The Supreme Court has stood up for small businesses by staying this illegal employer vaccine mandate," said Alfredo Ortiz, CEO of the Job Creators Network, a conservative advocacy group that filed one of many lawsuits against President Joe Biden's OSHA-enforced mandate.

Representing the National Federation of Independent Business during oral arguments over the mandate was attorney Scott Keller, who cited a statement from U.S. Postal Service Deputy Postmaster General Douglas Tulino. The mandate "is likely to result in the loss of many employees — either by employees leaving or being disciplined," Tulino said.


But despite expressed concerns that a vaccine mandate would severely affect companies presently in need of a strong labor force, numerous large firms, including major airlines, are likely to continue vaccine requirements for the foreseeable future.

For example, United Airlines has imposed a vaccine requirement for employees, citing there have been no deaths among the vaccinated employees after the requirement took effect.

"So United is using that in the market as a selling point," Sydney Heimbrock, chief industry adviser for government at Qualtrics, told the Washington Examiner on Friday. "It's a marketing strategy for them as well as a worker safety and retention strategy."

A poll taken by Qualitrics found 58% of employees support an executive order mandating vaccinations in the workplace, while 71% of employees said they "expected COVID to never go away."

The Supreme Court's ruling ultimately does not block a private employer's ability to impose COVID-related rules in the workplace. Some companies will likely continue enforcing such measures as infections continue to spike from the highly infectious omicron variant.

"The obligations imposed by OSHA's [emergency temporary standard], however, are no longer in place, which will be a relief to many employers who were legitimately concerned about employees quitting in an already difficult labor market," said Carrie Urrutia, a member in Eastman and Smith Labor and Employment practice in Toledo, Ohio.


While Thursday's ruling marked a significant victory for challengers to the OSHA vaccine-or-test mandate, which saw lawsuits filed by numerous advocacy groups and at least 26 Republican-led states, the legal fight is not finished.

The case has been remanded to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where judges held the ETS appeared to be lawful. The decision could return to the Supreme Court in the coming months.

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