Justia Summary

The Secretary of Labor, through OSHA, enacted a vaccine mandate, to be enforced by employers. The mandate preempted contrary state laws and covered virtually all employers with at least 100 employees, with exemptions for employees who exclusively work remotely or outdoors. It required that covered workers receive a COVID–19 vaccine or obtain a medical test each week at their own expense, on their own time, and also wear a mask at work. Challenges were consolidated before the Sixth Circuit, which allowed OSHA’s rule to take effect.

The Supreme Court stayed the rule. Applicants are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Secretary lacked the authority to impose the mandate. The rule is “a significant encroachment into the lives—and health—of a vast number of employees,” not plainly authorized by statute; 29 U.S.C. 655(b) empowers the Secretary to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures. Although COVID–19 is a risk in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most. COVID–19 spreads everywhere that people gather. Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization. The vaccine mandate is unlike typical OSHA workplace regulations. A vaccination “cannot be undone.” Where the virus poses a special danger because of the particular features of an employee’s job or workplace, targeted regulations are permissible but OSHA’s indiscriminate approach fails to distinguish between occupational risk and general risk. The equities do not justify withholding interim relief. States and employers allege that OSHA’s mandate will force them to incur billions of dollars in unrecoverable compliance costs and will cause hundreds of thousands of employees to leave their jobs.