Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s Private Employer Vaccine Mandate But Lets Healthcare Rule Take Effect
The Supreme Court delivered a mixed ruling on the Biden administration’s workplace Covid-19 vaccination requirements Thursday, reinstating a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers but temporarily blocking the vaccine-or-test rule for large private employers as litigation against both moves forward.
The court heard oral arguments Friday on whether to temporarily halt the vaccine-or-test mandate, which applies to all private employers with at least 100 workers, and whether to reinstate a vaccination requirement for healthcare workers in facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid, which federal appeals courts had blocked in a combined 24 states.
The challengers—coalitions of business groups and Republican-led states—had argued the federal government did not have the authority to implement the policies without congressional approval and that the vaccination requirements would wreak havoc by causing widespread staffing shortages.
The court ruled 6-3 to block the vaccine-or-test mandate, ruling it believes the Secretary of Labor “lacked authority to impose the mandate” and it should have been left up to Congress to decide.
The private employer mandate took effect January 4 and started being enforced January 10—with the testing requirements not enforced until February 9—and federal health officials have said healthcare workers will be required to receive a first Covid-19 vaccine dose by January 27 and be fully compliant with the policy by February 28.
The vaccine mandates are two of four the Biden administration has imposed, along with vaccination requirements for federal contractors and employees, and have proved controversial even as most Americans say they’re in favor of them. The private employer policy was initially blocked by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in November before the 6th Circuit reinstated it in December, and the 5th and 8th Circuit Courts of Appeals blocked the healthcare policy in December—though the 5th Circuit loosened a lower court ruling that had paused the policy nationwide. While its legal fate has still been up in the air amid the Supreme Court’s consideration of it, many major employers have prepared to comply with it, with companies like Starbucks and Macy’s announcing new vaccination measures this week ahead of the Supreme Court hearing. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the healthcare worker policy came after the court had previously issued rulings upholding several state-level healthcare worker vaccine mandates, including in Maine and New York.
The Supreme Court itself requires all attorneys to test negative for Covid-19 before they appear before it, and all nine justices are fully vaccinated and boosted. Two of the lawyers who argued against the mandates, Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flower and Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill, participated remotely in Friday’s oral arguments because they tested positive for Covid-19.
This story is breaking and will be updated.