The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Supreme Court Blocks OSHA Vaccine and Testing ETS and Upholds CMS Healthcare Worker Vaccine Mandate

On January 13, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that would mandate vaccines or testing requirements for employers with 100 or more employees, but reinstated enforcement of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)’s mandate that would require COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers working at facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

In December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit vacated the 5th Circuit Court’s nationwide emergency motion to stay the OSHA ETS, paving the way for OSHA to continue enforcement of the ETS vaccine and testing requirements. The decision led several business groups and Republican-led states to file emergency applications with the Supreme Court seeking to reinstate the stay. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the OSHA mandate on January 7, leading to the court’s decision to block the vaccine and testing mandate.

Additionally, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the CMS healthcare worker mandate on January 7. They ultimately ruled in favor of allowing the CMS healthcare worker vaccine mandate to take effect while the mandate is being litigated in several U.S. district courts and circuit courts. The CMS mandate was previously stayed in 25 states after four lawsuits were filed against CMS in district courts in Missouri, Louisiana, Florida and Texas.

Though not heard or ruled on by the Supreme Court, the federal contractor vaccine mandate, which requires all federal contractors to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees, remains stayed by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, which issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the mandate on December 7. The Biden administration has appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit Court, which has since upheld the lower court’s injunction but has not yet ruled on the legal merits of the mandate. Litigation continues for this rule in the 11th Circuit Court.

The Supreme Court’s decisions bring the rules back to the lower courts to continue litigation on their merits; however, the recent decisions do signal how the Supreme Court would likely rule on the merits of the cases if they are once again appealed to the higher court.

CUPA-HR will continue to keep members apprised of any legal updates as they relate to the fate of the OSHA ETS, the CMS healthcare vaccine mandate, and the federal contractor vaccine mandate.