The Supreme Court on Friday seemed poised to denounce Biden administration’s vaccine or testing requirement targeted towards large companies, a report said.
However, in a separate challenge, some justices appeared more open to a vaccination directive aimed at certain health care professionals.
During the four-hour hearing, three justices from the liberal spectrum showed their full support for the administration’s policies in both of the areas.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) guideline requires companies with 100 or more workers to ensure their employees have either been vaccinated or undergo regular tests and wear a mask at work. There are exceptions for people who have religious objections.
OSHA stated that it had the power to act in an emergency temporary standard intended to safeguard employees if they’re exposed to a “grave danger.”
The Biden administration defends the regulation and claims that the country is in the grip of a pandemic “that is sickening and killing thousands of workers around the country” and that any delay in implementing the mandate “will result in unnecessary illness, hospitalizations and death.”
Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the justices in court documents that if the court were to decide in favor of the challengers, it would render OSHA “powerless” to respond to the “grave workplace dangers posed by existing viruses and other infectious diseases, as well as future pandemics.”
She suggested that if the court blocks the rules, they should allow an alternative requirement for masking and periodic tests.
However, a lawyer representing the National Federation of Independent Business informed the court that OSHA did not have the authority to implement an examination and vaccine system that would cover two-thirds of the private sector workforce. Attorney Scott A. Keller said that the OSHA guideline would have a high cost of compliance for businesses that will be having to pay for testing millions of employees who are not willing to be vaxxed.
Keller asserts that the law could cause severe staff shortages if workers dissatisfied with the new rules quit. “The resulting labor upheaval will devastate already fragile supply chains and labor markets at the peak holiday season,” he wrote in court papers.
Keller said if the court decides in favor of the government, it could “drastically” expand the agency’s power over industries that comprise an important portion of the economy.
“Congress did not give OSHA power to impose emergency mandates and monitoring 84 million employees for a known, omnipresent danger that presents no unique hazard to the identified workplaces,” he said.
A panel of judges on the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals decided in favor of the administration, ruling that COVID-19 has “continued to spread, mutate, kill, and block the safe return of American workers to their jobs” OSHA “can and must be able to respond to dangers as they evolve.”
However, a respected conservative judge from the same court dissented during an earlier trial stage. Judge Jeffrey Sutton conceded the “utility of vaccines,” declaring, “It is the rare federal judge who has not gotten the message.” He argued, however, that regardless of the advantages of well-intentioned regulations, “a court may not enforce it if the agency’s reach exceeds a statute’s grasp.”
OSHA stated that the agency would not issue citations for non-compliance to employers before January 10.