In two companion rulings today, the U.S. Supreme Court imposed a “stay” on the Federal OSHA Rule requiring employers with 100 or more employees to impose vaccination/testing requirements on employees in National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor and upheld the HHS vaccination mandate for covered health care workers at providers that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding in Biden v. Missouri. In both rulings, the Supreme Court’s decision turned on the Court’s analysis of the statutory authority for these federal agencies to establish the mandates that were being challenged in these lawsuits.
In the NFIB v. Department of Labor ruling, the Supreme Court determined that the Department of Labor has the power to set workplace safety standards but not broad public health measures. In the majority’s opinion, OSHA’s vaccination mandate went beyond workplace safety and employee hazards to encompass public health measures, which the Court determined was outside OSHA’s jurisdiction. As a result, the Court stayed enforcement of the OSHA mandate while the substantive challenge to the rule proceeds in the Court of Appeals. We should expect the Illinois Department of Labor to follow up with its own guidance regarding implementation of their new rule consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling since the Illinois rule simply adopted the federal ETS by reference.
In contrast, in the Biden v. Missouri ruling, the Court found sufficient authority and jurisdiction for HHS to require health care providers who receive federal funding to impose vaccination requirements on their health care workers. The Court referred to specific provisions in the law where Congress has authorized the HHS to promulgate, as a condition of a facility’s participation in the programs, such “requirements as [he] finds necessary in the interest of the health and safety of individuals who are furnished services in the institution.” The Court further stated that the vaccination mandate “fits neatly within the language of the statute. After all, ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: first, do no harm. It would be the ‘very opposite of efficient and effective administration for a facility that is supposed to make people well to make them sick with COVID–19.’”
There will likely be more detailed information about these two rulings to follow but we wanted to get the word out that these rulings came out today.