Supreme Court to hear vaccine case Jan. 7

January 4, 2022

Mark Schremmer

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When President Joe Biden announced in September that he was ordering a vaccine mandate at companies with at least 100 employees, a courtroom battle seemed inevitable.

On Friday, Jan. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule, which would mandate that companies with 100 or more employees require their workers to either receive the COVID-19 vaccine or be tested weekly. Opponents contend the rule oversteps and is unconstitutional. OSHA, meanwhile, notes that the virus has already killed more than 800,000 people in the United States and argues that the rule could save “thousands of lives” and prevent “hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations in the next six months alone.”

In December, OSHA announced that it planned to move forward with its rule after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed an earlier court decision to put the emergency temporary standard on hold. The Fifth Circuit, which imposed the stay, called the rule “fatally flawed” and “staggeringly overbroad.” The Sixth Circuit ruled 2-1 that the OSHA standard could move forward.

Advancing American Freedom, an advocacy group led by former Vice President Mike Pence, filed an amicus brief this past week, asking the court to reject OSHA’s vaccine rule. In the brief, the group said the vaccine rule ignores the limitations on the executive branch.

“This court must act now to prevent the irreparable harm to Americans, to jobs, and to constitutional governance that will be done if OSHA’s mandate is permitted to take effect,” Advancing American Freedom wrote.

To provide employers with sufficient time to come into compliance, OSHA said it will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the rule before Jan. 10. Compliance with the testing portion of the requirement is Feb. 9 “as long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.”

The Supreme Court also will look at a separate rule that will require health care providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding to have their workers fully vaccinated.

How would the rule apply to truckers?

Most truck drivers will not fall under the OSHA rule because 96% of motor carriers have no more than 25 drivers. In addition, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said late last year that the rule wouldn’t apply to most truck drivers since they are alone in their cab. However, it is expected that team drivers at large fleets would be required to either get the vaccine or weekly testing.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says that all truck drivers should be exempt from the rule, including team drivers. LL

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.