The U.S. Supreme Court issued two highly anticipated rulings on Thursday, temporarily blocking a Biden administration COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large employers

The high court settled the matter concerning large employers in a 6-3 decision to block the rule that would have been issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, with the three liberal justices dissenting.

“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 majority opinion stated.

As for health care facilities, the court ruled 5-4 to uphold for now the rule administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissenting.

“Both Medicare and Medicaid are administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who has general statutory authority to promulgate regulations ‘as may be necessary to the efficient administration of the functions with which [he] is charged.’ One such function — perhaps the most basic, given the Department’s core mission — is to ensure that the health care providers who care for Medicare and Medicaid patients protect their patients’ health and safety,” the majority stated.

The rulings take effect immediately and will remain in place until legal challenges over their constitutionality are resolved through the justice system, and possibly through the Supreme Court.

A mandate targeting half the U.S. workforce

The administration’s employer mandate, announced by senior officials in early November, with an original effective date of Jan. 4, targets about 84 million U.S. workers, or roughly half of the U.S. workforce. Its deadline for employers to require masking was extended to Jan. 10. Full compliance, which the court’s decision now renders renders unenforceable, had been extended to Feb. 9.

Administered by OSHA, the emergency temporary standard would have imposed penalties on U.S. employers with 100 or more workers that failed to ensure that all of their employees, aside from those who qualified for an exemption, were fully vaccinated for COVID-19, or tested for the virus, each week. Employers could choose whether to offer a testing option and wouldn’t have had to pay for tests. Unvaccinated workers would have had to wear a mask at work.

“For all intents and purposes, the ETS is now ‘dead’ until the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the merits of the rule, or OSHA promulgates a rule consistent with the notice and comment requirements,” Dan Kaplan, a partner and litigation attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP and co-chair of the firm’s large business side labor & employment practice, told Yahoo Finance. Kaplan anticipates that employers that had not contemplated mandatory vaccination programs for fear of losing labor, are now much less implement any form of vaccination mandate or requirement.

Heath facility mandate targets 17 million heath care workers

The administration’s health care mandate applies to facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds, requiring them to maintain a fully vaccinated workforce, with no testing alternative. The rule for health workers applies to more than 17 million workers and is administered by Heath and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Norma W. Zeitler, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg, explains that the court’s decision impacting health care workers allows the administration to enforce vaccination requirements on covered health care facilities, with certain exceptions to accommodate workers who decline vaccination on medical or religious grounds.

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