A Biden administration mandate that would have required many employers to ensure that workers are either vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly at their own expense was shot down on Thursday.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of a stay of the mandate from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which would have applied to businesses with over 100 employees and affected more than 80 million workers.
The stay had been sought by a number of businesses, states, and nonprofit organizations after the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati last month dissolved an earlier stay of the order by another court. The case was sent back to the Sixth Circuit for a determination of the mandate’s legality, and could return to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court's majority agreed that OSHA had likely overstepped its authority in issuing the rule.
"Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote. "Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category."
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanagh, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Coney Barrett joined Gorsuch in the majority.
Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer were against blocking the OSHA rule.
"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," they said in a dissenting opinion. "As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible."
Eric Hoplin, CEO of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, applauded the ruling Thursday afternoon.
"While we share the goal this mandate hopes to achieve, the reality is that this broad government overreach will have dramatic impacts on the economy, as tens of thousands of Americans quit their jobs rather than submit to the edict of government," Hoplin said in a press release
At the White House, spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that the court had upheld a vaccine mandate for workers and health-care facilities that receive government funding, which applies to about 17 million people, and praised companies that have implemented their own vaccine policies.
The court's decision, Psaki said, "essentially means that it is up to individual employers to determine whether their workplaces will be safe for employees."