The Occupational Safety and Health Administration confirmed the withdrawal Tuesday. But the agency said it still strongly encourages workers to get vaccinated.
In early November, OSHA announced a vaccine-or-test mandate for companies with at least 100 employees. The rule — which would have impacted more than 80 million U.S. workers — was originally set to go into effect on Jan. 4.
But numerous states and business groups challenged the rule in court. On Jan. 13, the Supreme Court halted the plan. In a 6-3 ruling, the court’s conservative majority concluded that OSHA had overstepped its authority.
“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress,″ the court’s majority wrote. ”Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here.”
The justices left in place a vaccine mandate for health care providers who receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. That rule affects 10.4 million workers.
OSHA indicated that the rule could return in some form. While it is no longer an enforceable standard, it remains a proposed rule, OSHA said. In the meantime, the agency said it will prioritize the health care mandate.
Following is a partial statement from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) about the withdrawal of the vaccine mandate:
“… the Biden Administration’s decision today to withdraw its emergency vaccine mandate for firms that employ 100 or more people will help firms avoid losing workers unwilling to comply with the new measure.
“The decision by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration to withdraw its emergency temporary standard requiring workers at firms that employ 100 or more people to be vaccinated or tested weekly comes after the Supreme Court signaled its strong support for legal challenges filed by the Associated General Contractors of America and other entities against the measure.
“The association challenged the rule late last year noting that the measure was unlawful and would do little to boost vaccination rates among construction workers, citing the fact that 64 percent of the construction industry works for firms that employ 99 or fewer people. With nearly 90 percent of construction firms having a hard time finding workers to hire, the rule would simply have encouraged vaccine-hesitant workers to move to smaller firms.
“‘The Biden administration is right to abandon its misguided vaccine emergency rule and we encourage them to do the same with a similar measure affecting federal contractors that we are also challenging in court,’ said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. ‘At the same time, we will continue to work with the administration to ensure its planned permanent vaccine rule applies only to workers in industries like healthcare that OSHA deems at high risk from the coronavirus.’”
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