The Supreme Court seemed skeptical this morning of the Biden administration’s bold claim that it has the authority to impose vaccination mandates applying to more than 84 million private sector employees.
In a rare Friday sitting the high court seemed broadly receptive to the argument that states have authority to impose vaccination mandates but questioned the ability of federal agencies to do the same.
The court decided Dec. 22, 2021, to fast-track emergency applications pertaining to challenges to the two mandates’ lawfulness as those challenges work their way through the lower courts. Various business groups, along with Ohio, Missouri, Louisiana and two dozen other states, want the federal mandates blocked.
The private sector worker mandate, which imposes penalties on employers of up to $14,000 per violation, is not currently stayed by any court; the health care worker mandate has been frozen by lower courts.
The court was in the process of hearing two separate oral arguments Jan. 7 on the mandates. At time of writing, the first argument, which was on the private sector mandate, had been completed, running more than twice as long as the allotted 60 minutes.
The first case, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Department of Labor, court file 21A244, concerns the Biden administration’s attempt through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to force employers with at least 100 employees –or most of the nation’s private workforce— to submit to vaccinations aimed at preventing COVID-19 or to regular testing to detect it.
Unless paused, the mandate will begin taking effect this Monday, Jan. 10, at which point “America’s businesses will immediately begin incurring billions in nonrecoverable compliance costs, and they will lose employees amid a preexisting labor shortage,” NFIB argues in a brief.
“OSHA’s sweeping regulatory dictate” will “irreparably injure the very businesses that Americans have counted on to widely distribute COVID-19 vaccines and protective equipment to save lives—and to keep them fed, clothed, and sustained during this now two-year-long pandemic.” The mandate will also “convert hundreds of thousands of businesses into de facto public health agencies for two-thirds of America’s private employees.”