U.S. Supreme Court Blocks OSHA COVID-19 Vaccination Rule – Allows CMS Vaccination Rule to Move Forward

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) final rule that required companies with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for employees or require that they wear a mask at work and be tested for COVID-19 weekly. The court did allow implementation of a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services final rule that requires all employees to be vaccinated at health care facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid payments.


In explaining its ruling, the six-member majority said Congress gave OSHA the authority to issue regulations on hazards and exposures unique to the work setting, but that Congress did not give the agency authority to establish regulations to protect against community-wide health threats. However, the court found that Congress explicitly gave CMS the authority to establish safety and workplace regulations in health care settings that received federal funds.


In a strongly-worded dissenting opinion, the three minority justices stated, “In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible. Without legal basis, the Court usurps a decision that rightfully belongs to others. It undercuts the capacity of the responsible federal officials, acting well within the scope of their authority, to protect American workers from grave danger.”


The ATS joined the American Medical Association and several other physician organizations in an amicus brief urging the court to support both the CMS and OSHA COVID-19 vaccination policies.

Last Reviewed: January 2022