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Washington– On Thursday January 13th, the supreme court had blocked president Biden’s decision to have a vaccine and testing mandate for businesses and major employers. However, the court stated that the federal government is able to enforce the necessary measures to ensure safety for employees.
With the recent Omicron variant surge, US secretary of labor Marty Walsh has assured the public that the Occupational and Safety Administration (OSHA) will be taking the necessary steps in regulating safety measures and making sure businesses strive to protect their workers.
“I am disappointed in the court’s decision, which is a major setback to the health and safety of workers across the country. OSHA stands by the Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard as the best way to protect the nation’s workforce from a deadly virus that is infecting more than 750,000 Americans each day and has taken the lives of nearly a million Americans” said Walsh in a statement after the court’s decision.
“The plan is we’re going to be asking employers to make sure their workplace is safe as we have been doing that before.”
The mandate was blocked based on the supreme court’s conservative 6-3 majority, who asserted that it would be more appropriate for the OSHA to take control and regulate necessary measures based on the severity and how high-risk the workplace is. “It draws no distinctions based on industry or risk of exposure to Covid-19”, the court ruled.
“Regarding of the ultimate outcome of these proceedings, OSHA will do everything in its existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers” Walsh said.
If implemented, the president’s mandate would have applied to businesses who have a minimum of 100 employees, enforcing workers to either be vaccinated, or get tested weekly and wear masks, impacting nearly 84 million workers as it was intended to be imposed by employers.
When it comes to contractors and construction workers, eleven states, with a republican majority have sued the Biden administration over the vaccine mandate for federal contractors back in October. “The mandate will only worsen the workforce shortage and supply chain issues that hinder our economic recovery and it furthers the unprecedented government intrusion into our lives”, said Iowa governor Kim Reynolds in a Twitter video statement. In addition, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) have also sued the Biden administration, declaring that although they have encouraged their construction employees to get vaccinated, this mandate would result in skilled workers leaving construction jobs, which would lead to delays and an increase in the costs.
Despite the supreme court’s decision, states such as New York have deployed a vaccine mandate for all private businesses. In the nation’s largest city, unvaccinated people cannot work from office. As a result, employers are now left with the decision of switching unvaccinated employees to work remotely or setting them on an unpaid leave/absence.
“We urge all employers to require workers to get vaccinated or tested weekly to most effectively fight this deadly virus in the workplace. Employers are responsible for the safety of their workers on the job, and OSHA has comprehensive COVID-19 guidance to help them uphold their obligation”, Walsh said.