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Supreme Court Rules: OSHA Vaccine Mandate Stayed, CMS Mandate Can Proceed

January 13, 2022 Articles COVID-19 Labor & Employment Labor & Employment Blog

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued rulings on the challenges to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) affecting certain employers with 100 or more employees and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Interim Final Rule on vaccine mandates affecting certain healthcare entities.

The Supreme Court halted the OSHA ETS, preventing OSHA from enforcing it until the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals acts further.

The Supreme Court majority held that OSHA overstepped its authority. “OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the Supreme Court majority observed. More importantly, the Supreme Court concluded that OSHA’s powers are limited to regulating the workplace, but COVID affected not just the workplace.  Imposing a vaccine mandate on almost 85 million Americans was not part of what OSHA was created to handle. Hence, the pandemic fell beyond OSHA’s authority.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court concluded that the stay in 25 states, which did not include Florida, was not appropriate for CMS’s vaccine mandate on healthcare facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.

For the CMS rule, it’s worth recalling that Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) advised Florida healthcare providers before this ruling that it would not survey for compliance. Instead, AHCA planned to comply with Florida law, and reminded healthcare providers that under Florida law, private employers are prohibited from imposing “a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for any full-time, part-time, or contract employee without providing individual exemptions that allow an employee to opt out of such requirement on the basis of medical reasons, including, but not limited to, pregnancy or anticipated pregnancy; religious reasons; COVID-19 immunity; periodic testing; and the use of employer-provided personal protective equipment.” It is uncertain how AHCA will handle the Supreme Court’s new ruling, which did not address whether the federal CMS rule preempts conflicting state laws, like in Florida.