The Biden administration can’t enforce a vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The 6-3 decision was driven by the conservative majority on the court.
The mandate was a crucial component of the White House’s plan to tackle the COVID pandemic as cases skyrocket due to the Omicron variant.
President Joe Biden reacted to the decision with dismay.
“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” he said in a statement. “This emergency standard allowed employers to require vaccinations or to permit workers to refuse to be vaccinated, so long as they were tested once a week and wore a mask at work: a very modest burden.”
Still, Biden said that he will still push companies to help vaccinate their employees.
“The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy,” Biden added. “I call on business leaders to immediately join those who have already stepped up — including one third of Fortune 100 companies — and institute vaccination requirements to protect their workers, customers and communities.”
The Supreme Court did rule 5-4 in favor of another mandate, this one for vaccination of health care workers at hospitals and other health care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the requirement for health care workers will save lives: the lives of patients who seek care in medical facilities, as well as the lives of doctors, nurses and others who work there,” Biden said. “It will cover 10.4 million health care workers at 76,000 medical facilities. We will enforce it.”
Under the large employer mandate rejected by the Supreme Court, employers would not have had to pay for testing, the Times reported.
That mandate also included exemptions for employees with religious exemptions and those whose jobs don’t require close contact with others, such as those who work from home or are always outdoors.
Last month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, ruled in favor of the mandate for large employers, the Times reported.
Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for more on COVID vaccines.