Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings last week on the COVID vaccine mandates, here is what you need to know:
OSHA Vaccine Mandate for Private Employers with 100 or More Employees on Hold for Now
As we explained in our prior blog NEWS FLASH: Long-Awaited OSHA Vaccine Rule is Here!, many states, businesses and other groups challenged whether OSHA can implement and enforce a rule that mandates private employers with 100 or more employees to require COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing. A federal court granted a preliminary injunction (a temporary order) postponing the OSHA vaccine mandate from going into effect until the court could fully decide whether OSHA exceeded its authority. The federal government then appealed this decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the injunction.
The challengers then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep the preliminary injunction in force, and on January 13, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that private employers with 100 or more employees are not required to follow OSHA’s vaccine mandate, for now anyways.
The new rule is only postponed while the original lawsuit comes to an end, and the originating federal court decides whether OSHA has the authority to enforce and implement the rule. Of course, regardless of the ruling, we anticipate the losing side will appeal the decision back up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will ultimately decide whether OSHA’s vaccine mandate is proper.
Mandate for Healthcare Workers Upheld
On the other hand, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the CMS vaccine mandate rule for healthcare workers, as discussed in our prior blog Update: Some States Halt Healthcare Worker Vaccine Mandate, But Not Florida!!!, can go into effect in those states that halted the CMS rule. As background, 24 states challenged the CMS rule and received a preliminary injunction preventing the rule from going into effect in their states. An appeal through the courts and to the U.S. Supreme Court followed.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision means that healthcare workers in states where the CMS rule was halted (not Florida), will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine series, absent a sincerely held religious belief or medical reason. In states like Florida, where the CMS rule was not postponed, the vaccine mandate went into effect.
Why the difference? Well, the legal authority to enact such rules is different for OSHA versus CMS.
Bottom Line – For Now
What does this mean for Florida workers in light of Governor DeSantis’s new COVID Vaccine Mandate Program? (Check out our blog Florida Broadens Exemptions for Vaccine Mandate on what the new Florida law requires.)
Per CMS, its vaccine mandate overrides state laws that conflict with the rule, which means the additional exceptions to vaccine mandates in Florida, such as weekly testing or having COVID antibodies, may not exempt Florida healthcare workers from the CMS rule.
As for other employees previously impacted by the OSHA rule, while those employers are not mandated by OSHA to require vaccination, they still may choose to do so. Florida employees, however, can take advantage of the expanded exemptions under the state law, if applicable to them.