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COVID-19 Information

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down OSHA’s Vaccination Rule; Upholds Vaccine Mandates for Health Care Providers Receiving Medicare or Medicaid Funds

On Thursday, January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two significant decisions addressing vaccine mandates that will have an immediate impact on many employers. These decisions: (1) temporarily blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA”) Emergency Temporary Standard that would have applied to employers with 100 employees or more; and (2) refused to block the Health and Human Services’ (“HHS”) requirement that all facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding implement mandatory vaccine policies.

In three consolidated cases the Supreme Court blocked OSHA from implementing an emergency temporary rule that would have imposed a vaccine mandate on all private employers within the U.S. with 100 or more employees. OSHA’s rule would have required employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or otherwise engage in weekly testing at the employee’s expense and wear a mask each workday. The Court held that the rule as promulgated vastly exceeded the Secretary of Labor’s authority. The Court also intimated that while the broad vaccine mandate exceeded OSHA’s authority, there may be occupation-specific examples in which OSHA might have the authority to impose a vaccine mandate.

In Biden v. Missouri, the Supreme Court addressed an interim rule promulgated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services that would require all facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding to ensure that their covered staff are vaccinated against COVID-19. HHS’s rule further states that providers must offer medical and religious exemptions, and does not cover staff who telework full-time. A facility’s failure to comply may lead to monetary penalties, denial of payment for new admissions, and ultimately termination of participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s decision regarding OSHA, several jurisdictions including New York City, have implemented vaccine mandates that will continue to be enforced. Employees in New York City, for example, must be vaccinated, unless they have been granted a reasonable accommodation on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief or a medical condition. New York State has imposed a mask mandate that was extended through February 1, 2022, as well as extended COVID-19’s designation as an airborne infectious disease through at least January 15, 2022 triggering an obligation on employers to implement their airborne infectious disease safety plans.

If you have any questions about COVID-19 related rules and regulations, please contact the Co-Chairs of Kane Kessler’s Labor & Employment Practice Group, Jeffrey Douglas at 212-519-5183, jdouglas@kanekessler.com, or Valerie K. Ferrier, at 212-519-5107, vferrier@kanekessler.com.


This memo is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice and readers should consult counsel to discuss how these matters relate to their individual circumstances.