Supreme Court blocks Biden vaccine or test policy for big companies

United States Supreme Court Headquarters in Washington

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate on pandemic-related vaccinations or testing for large companies, at a time of escalating Covid-19 infections as allowed the federal government to enforce its vaccine requirement for healthcare facilities.

The court acted after hearing arguments last Friday in the legal fight over temporary mandates issued in November by two federal agencies aimed at increasing U.S. vaccination rates and making workplaces and healthcare environments safer. The cases tested the presidential powers to deal with a growing public health crisis that has killed more than 845,000 Americans.

The Supreme Court was divided on both cases. It ruled 6-3 with the six Conservative judges in the majority and three liberal judges disagreeing to block the broader workplace decision. The vote was 5-4 to allow the rule over healthcare workers, with two Conservatives, John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh, joining the Liberals in a majority.

The federal workplace safety agency has issued a ruling affecting companies with at least 100 workers requiring vaccines or weekly Covid-19 tests — a policy that applies to more than 80 million employees.

Challenges led by the State of Ohio and a business group asked judges to block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule after a lower court lowered an injunction against it. Companies were supposed to start showing they were in compliance as of last Monday.

The other mandate called for vaccinations for about 10.3 million workers in approximately 76,000 health care facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes that receive money from the government’s Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs for the elderly, disabled, and low-income Americans. .

According to the court ruling on larger companies, the OSHA rule was not a common use of federal power.

“Instead, it is a significant invasion of the lives – and health – of large numbers of employees,” the court said.

A majority in the court downplayed the risk Covid-19 poses specifically in the workplace, comparing it to “everyday” crime and pollution hazards that individuals face everywhere.

“Allowing OSHA to regulate the dangers of daily life – simply because most Americans have jobs and face these same risks – would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization,” the court said.

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