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U.S. Supreme Court Stays Federal OSHA Vaccine Rule, Allows CMS Rule to Move Forward

January 13, 2022 | Cole Karr

The U.S. Supreme Court effectively blocked Thursday the Biden Administration's vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers while allowing the rule for healthcare workers to move forward.

In a 6-3 decision, the Court re-imposed the stay on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to adopt and enforce policies requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Under the ETS, those who are not vaccinated must submit to weekly COVID tests. If the stay is later lifted, the standard will impact all of the nation’s large employers, but it will also impact public agency employers – including special districts – in 22 states with OSHA state plans, which may adopt more stringent standards, including applying the ETS to smaller employers.  

Impacted NSDC members would be in California, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Members in these states are encouraged to check with relevant state agencies responsible for occupational health and safety standards for current or anticipated re-evaluations of their policies.

On the other hand, the justices gave a green light, in a 5-4 decision, for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) rule requiring all organizations participating in the agency’s services to enforce vaccine mandates for employees who must appear in-person for work. The rule does not allow employees to test in lieu of vaccination unless given a health or religious exemption. The rule impacts special districts nationwide that receive CMS program funds.

Due to its emergency status, the CMS rule is in full effect despite its interim status. CMS suspended rollout of the rule on December 2 pending further court actions. The mandate was to be in full effect on January 4, 2022. Stay tuned for more updates as CMS could update its timeline.

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