The high court did uphold a requirement that health care firms that receive federal money comply with a vaccine mandate for their employees.
The 6-3 ruling (read it here) is not a surprise, as justices had indicated their misgivings about the mandate in oral arguments last Friday.
Biden has cited vaccine requirements at The Walt Disney Co., Netflix and Fox Corp. in arguing for the government mandate. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration drew up the rules and was the implement and enforce it. It would have applied to businesses with 100 or more employees, and also would have required that unvaccinated employees wear masks in the workplace. An estimated 84 million employees were covered by the regulation.
“Administrative agencies are creatures of statute,” the majority wrote in their opinion. “They accordingly possess only the authority that Congress has provided. The Secretary [of Labor] has ordered 84 million Americans to either obtain a COVID–19 vaccine or undergo weekly medical testing at their own expense. This is no ‘everyday exercise of federal power.'”
“It is instead a significant encroachment into the lives—and health—of a vast number of employees.”
Writing in dissent, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan wrote, “Underlying everything else in this dispute is a single, simple question: Who decides how much protection, and of what kind, American workers need from COVID–19? An agency with expertise in workplace health and safety, acting as Congress and the President authorized? Or a court, lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes?”
The White House issued a statement from Biden, in which he said, “The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy. I call on business leaders to immediately join those who have already stepped up – including one third of Fortune 100 companies – and institute vaccination requirements to protect their workers, customers, and communities.”