In-Depth: President Biden's most sweeping vaccine mandates head to Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments on President Biden's vaccine mandates
Posted at 6:10 PM, Dec 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-24 01:43:40-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – In two weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the legality of President Joe Biden’s most sweeping vaccine mandates.

The rulings will affect two-thirds of the American workforce.

The president’s vaccine-or-test mandate on large private employers will get a special hearing by the high court on Jan. 7. The requirements apply to employers with 100 or more workers. About 84 million employees are covered by that mandate, according to the White House.

The same day, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on a vaccine mandate covering 17 million health care workers. Employees at hospitals receiving funding from Medicare or Medicaid face termination if they refuse vaccination.

That mandate is stayed in 25 states pending a decision from the high court.

Challenges to two other mandates are still working their way through lower courts. A federal court has paused a mandate nationwide on federal contractors. A mandate that 3.5 million federal employees get vaccinated remains active.

A pause on the most sweeping mandate on large private employers was lifted last week, leaving some companies scrambling to come into compliance. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it will delay enforcement of the rules until February.

The legal case centers on how much power OSHA has to issue emergency temporary standards, something the agency has done only a handful of times in its 50-year history.

“Just when you’re looking at the odds, the fact is that the majority of emergency temporary standards have been struck down by the courts,” said legal analyst Dan Eaton.

OSHA has issued emergency standards nine times. Of the six challenged in court, only one survived.

In court filings, opponents to the emergency COVID-19 standards argue OSHA overstepped its authority to make rules without public input. They argue the mandate should come from Congress instead since COVID doesn’t just affect the workplace.

In a split decision, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled OSHA can make emergency rules to improve workplace safety if employees are in grave danger.

“If a global pandemic that’s killing about 1,000 people a day in the United States isn’t an emergency, it’s hard to think what is,” said UC Hastings law professor Dorit Reiss.

It’s not clear when the U.S. Supreme Court will issue rulings on the private employer and health care mandates following the Jan. 7 meeting.

OSHA plans to start enforcing the testing requirements on employers Feb. 9.