Supreme Court blocks vaccine mandate for large businesses, upholds for healthcare facilities

By Gustav Anderson

Jan. 14, 2022


  • Supreme Court blocks vaccine-or-test mandate for 100+ staff businesses

  • Vaccine mandate for Medicare and Medicaid facilities upheld

  • Employers use workforce management automation to track staff qualifications/vaccination status

The saga of the ever-changing vaccine mandate continues. 

Enter stage right: The Supreme Court.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden Administration’s sweeping vaccine-or-test requirement for 100+ staff businesses in a 6-3 ruling. The nationwide mandate would have impacted 80 million workers and was due to take full effect on February 9.

In light of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the country, the ruling is undoubtedly a major setback for the administration’s plans to keep transmission under control. However, the ruling most likely comes as a relief for many small businesses operations and HR managers struggling with a persisting labor shortage. For them, a vaccine mandate likely would have resulted in the loss of valuable staff, leading to increased overtime and burnout. 

OSHA would have been the primary organization enforcing and monitoring the mandate – a near-impossible task indeed considering the sheer amount of people and businesses impacted. The court’s ruling came on the back of the belief that OSHA was not within its rights as an organization to enforce such an aggressive mandate.

“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,” the court’s majority says.

While blocking the large employer vaccine-or-test mandate, the Supreme Court still approved of a more limited mandate originally issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning healthcare facilities. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that federally funded healthcare facilities providing Medicare and Medicaid services must require their staff to be fully vaccinated unless qualified for a medical or religious exemption. The decision will impact an estimated 10 million healthcare workers. 

What this means for employers with 100+ staff

In light of these two decisions from the Supreme Court, businesses should reevaluate and assess their HR and workforce management practices, keeping in mind employee preferences, financial constraints, and the health of the public at large. 

Employers with 100+ staff now no longer need to feel pressured by the federal government to enforce employee vaccination or weekly testing. However, if these practices are a priority for them, they now have more flexibility regarding how and when to go about implementing these measures.

What this means for those in healthcare

Healthcare facilities, of course, are a different story. The mandate still stands for those receiving federal funding. They also do not have weekly testing as an alternative. 

Managers at healthcare facilities must ensure that they are properly recording employee qualifications. Qualifications in this particular case refer to up-to-date records on each employee’s vaccination status.

Sometimes, it is not enough to simply have static vaccination records though. Healthcare facilities should consider how employee qualifications play a role in their scheduling systems. Workforce management automation can help ensure compliance with HHS by actively limiting who gets scheduled for shifts based on vaccination status. 

Beyond qualification records, other measures can and should be taken. For instance, asking employees about symptoms or exposure via shift questions before every clock-in is a good way to stay on top of everyday staff health issues. Utilizing effective internal communications and shift feedback tools also help mitigate confusion and error when it comes to handling workplace COVID-19 safety protocols. 

It’s a complicated world out there right now. All the new, reversed, and revised vaccination decisions may have your head spinning – and for good reason. If you want to know more about how to handle the healthcare vaccine mandate, contact us today. We’re here to help guide you through the noise.

Gustav is a communications officer with His past work includes media outreach for a Guinness World Record team and market research published by the University of Maine. He has a keen interest in storytelling, frontline labor issues, and all things relating to pigeons.

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