The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s order requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure that workers receive a COVID vaccine or wear masks and submit to testing on a weekly basis.
The court also said a separate mandate requiring vaccinations for an estimated 20 million health care workers can be enforced.
The business mandate was announced last October by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The rule would have covered nearly 80 million American workers.
“The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers,” Biden said when announcing the requirement.
The OSHA mandate was struck down by a vote of 6-3. The court’s three liberal judges argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgments for health experts.
“Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent.
Announced in November, the rule was immediately challenged by a group of red states and businesses that said the government lacked the power to issue such a sweeping mandate. Lower courts initially blocked the requirement, but a later ruling allowed it to go into effect.
“A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit called the OSHA rule “an important step in curtailing the transmission of a deadly virus that has killed over 800,000 people in the United States, brought our health care system to its knees, and cost hundreds of thousands of workers their jobs.”
The Supreme Court then moved to hear arguments on the ruling in a special session.
In a separate ruling, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in upholding a mandate that requires vaccinations for health care workers who treat Medicare and Medicaid patients. Two federal appeals courts had blocked enforcement in 24 states, but the requirement went into effect in the remaining 26.
The upheld ruling will affect essentially all of the country’s healthcare workers. Justices Roberts and Kavanaugh joined Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor in upholding the healthcare mandate.
The Biden White House has yet to comment on the rulings.