How the Supreme Court’s ruling affects existing vaccine mandates

Coronavirus

(NewsNation Now) — The Supreme Court’s decision Thursday to halt a vaccine mandate for large businesses could spark new arguments against existing vaccine requirements.

The finding doesn’t strike down vaccine requirements already in place by states or private employers. But it could inspire new challenges to those policies or place new onus on employers to create them.

Now employers that hoped to enforce the failed mandate must choose whether to implement their own. The realization comes at a time when staffing shortages and waves of resignations already are hindering business.

“I think the net effect will end up being that we have a minority of employers that end up with a policy,” said Paul Seeger, managing partner at the benefits consulting firm PCS Advisers.

But without a broader vaccine mandate for large businesses, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is urging employers to require vaccination or weekly testing of their employees.

“Employers are responsible for the safety of their workers on the job, and OSHA has comprehensive COVID-19 guidance to help them uphold their obligation,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said in an official statement.

The Supreme Court on Thursday stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job.

“As a result of the Court’s decision, it is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, 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 Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday evening.

At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S.

That mandate survived, in part, because it identified risks that are specific to a particular workforce, New York employment attorney Helen Rella said.

“They said that OSHA is not an organization that is authorized to issue those sort of broad public health measures that go beyond setting workplace safety standards,” Rella said.

That’s doesn’t mean that employees previously bound to vaccine requirements no longer need to abide by them, Seeger said.

“There are lots of other mandates that are enforced or being proposed or being litigated, and this may not affect those…” Seeger said. “If you’re in a state where your state has put in a mandate for you as a worker, then you may still be subject to that. This does not affect that in a significant way other than building some momentum against these kinds of policies.”

California-based Worksite Labs CEO Gary Frazier said people shouldn’t be choosing between vaccines or testing, because both are needed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Moving forward, more needs to be done to support communities that lack sufficient access to healthcare by increasing access to verified and convenient testing, Frazier said. Often, America’s most vulnerable populations feel the disproportionate impacts of testing access, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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