WASHINGTON —A Supreme Court ruling Jan. 13 concerning vaccine mandates drew a positive response from the American Bakers Association.
By a 6-3 vote the court granted a stay on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard (ETS). The decision means OSHA cannot enforce the standard that went into effect Jan. 10 and must wait for lower courts to consider the case.
“We are encouraged the Supreme Court agreed this emergency standard could cause irreparable harm on our industry’s ability to feed Americans,” said Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the ABA. “Even with the stay in the implementation of the ETS, our members will continue to do everything in their power to keep employees safe, including encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations and following all relevant safety CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations. We look forward to continuing to focus on feeding Americans as this public health emergency continues.”
The vaccine mandate applies to about 84 million workers covering virtually all employers with at least 100 employees, according to the Supreme Court ruling. Exceptions were made for workers who obtain a medical test each week at their own expense and on their own time and who wear a mask at work.
OSHA published its vaccine mandate on Nov. 5, 2021. The Fifth US Circuit Court entered a stay, but the Sixth US Circuit Court lifted the stay and allowed OSHA’s rule to take effect. The Supreme Court disagreed with the Sixth Circuit Court in its Jan. 13 ruling, calling the mandate a “significant encroachment” into the lives and health of employees.
“Although COVID–19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most,” the Supreme Court ruling said. “COVID–19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events and everywhere else that people gather. That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases. Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life — simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock — would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization.”
Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, citing OSHA estimates that the vaccine mandate would save over 6,500 lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations in six months’ time,
“In our view, the court’s order seriously misapplies the applicable legal standards, and in so doing, it stymies the federal government’s ability to counter the unparalleled threat that COVID–19 poses to our nation’s workers,” they said.