Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s Vaccine Mandate for Large Businesses

Katriona Page, Senior Copy Editor

On Thursday, Jan. 13, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s mandate (in cooperation with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) that private businesses with 100 or more employees require their workers to either receive the COVID-19 vaccine or undergo regular testing.

The ruling comes three days after OSHA’s emergency vaccinate-or-test measure took effect. Employees were exempt from vaccination for religious or medical reasons.

This vote, which was 6-3, featured liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissenting. Conservative judges, including Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch, argued that OSHA likely exceeded its power, claiming that Congress never approved OSHA to enforce such a widespread mandate when dealing with something as permanent as vaccines. 

Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan argued that Congress gave OSHA the authority to respond appropriately when confronted with remarkable and unusual situations, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

This deals a blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to slow the spread of Omicron, the latest COVID-19 variant. However, the court did allow a mandate requiring employees working at medical facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid to get vaccinated. The vote stood 5-4, with Justice Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberal justices.