What's the Status of the Three Vaccine Mandates?
Over the course of the last year, three separate COVID-19 vaccine mandates have been proposed by the federal government; one for businesses with 100 or more employees, one for federal workers, and one for health care workers. The courts have recently made decisions related to all three, so where do things stand for you and your business?
The first vaccine mandate was a rule issued as an "Emergency Temporary Standard" (ETS) by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for employers with at least 100 employees. On January 13, the Supreme Court ruled that OSHA did not have the authority to implement broad public health measures. In response to the ruling, the White House issued a statement that said "it is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated."
Health Care Workers
An additional rule was issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that would require health care workers at facilities that fall under CMS regulations. Unlike the ruling related to OSHA's authority, the Supreme Court ruled that CMS does have the authority to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers in facilities participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Facilities covered by CMS in Texas have until February 19 to have their vaccination process and plans in place, and all staff must have received at least their first does of the COVID-19 vaccine or have a pending exemption request. By March 21, all employees must have received their second dose or have an approved exemption.
Last week, a federal judge in Texas blocked the administration's executive order requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown compared it to the failed OSHA rule and said the ruling wasn't about whether or not people should get vaccinated. “It is instead about whether the President can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment," he said. The Justice Department announced it would appeal to a circuit court.