The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 13 halted enforcement of a controversial emergency rule from the Biden administration that would have required business with more than 100 employees to require workers to have COVID-19 vaccines or else undergo weekly testing.
The unsigned opinion came just days after the court heard an emergency appeal last Friday. The rule, an “emergency temporary standard,” would have affected more than 84 million workers. The trucking industry was among those that had challenged the mandate, and it was quickly put on hold by an appeals court.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration published the ETS in early November, arguing that the mandate was needed to ensure workplaces were safe for employees in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration said a 1970 law permits the agency to set an emergency rule when a “grave danger” exists that could expose workers to “substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards.”
The majority of justices disagreed, saying the agency had overstepped its authority.
“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” the court wrote. "Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category.”
The court’s three liberal justices issued a dissent.
"It's an extraordinary use of emergency power occurring in an extraordinary circumstance, a circumstance that this country has never faced before," Associate Justice Elena Kagan said.
American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear issued a statement calling it “a tremendous victory.”
“Trucking has been on the front lines throughout the pandemic – delivering PPE, medical supplies, food, clothing, fuel, and even the vaccines themselves,” Spear said. “Thanks to this ruling, our industry will continue to deliver critical goods, as our nation recovers from the pandemic and we move our economy forward.”
The news comes on the heels of OSHA publishing a frequently asked question about the mandate confirming that most solo truck drivers woulde have been exempt from the rule.