The US Supreme Court issued a decision Thursday halting enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that went into effect Monday.
OSHA’s ETS mandated that private businesses with more than 100 employees require workers to receive COVID-19 vaccination. The rules also charged employers with ensuring that unvaccinated workers wear masks and creating a policy to regularly test unvaccinated workers for infection.
In the decision, justices opined that OSHA does not have the authority to regulate “public health measures,” as COVID-19 falls outside of the realm of “occupational safety.”
“COVID-19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather. That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases,” justices wrote in the decision. “Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life – simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock – would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization.”
The rule went into effect Monday after the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently lifted a stay of the rules put in place by the Fifth Circuit court. After that court decision, several applications to halt OSHA’s ETS were sent to the Supreme Court.
“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employers at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and law,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement following the court’s decision.
“It is now up to states and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated,” President Biden added.
Food manufacturing and retail trade organization The Food Industry Association (FMI) praised the court’s decision and said the move will ultimately benefit America’s food supply chain.
“We are pleased the Supreme Court recognized the challenges OSHA’s rule would have imposed on food retailers and manufacturers, our employees, and, ultimately, American consumers,” said FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin in a statement. “The court’s decision today to pause OSHA’s vaccine and testing mandate for private businesses will help ensure the food industry is able to continue meeting our customers’ needs as efficiently and effectively as possible amid the ongoing supply chain and labor disruptions.”