Supreme Court Blocks OSHA Vaccination-or-Test Mandate and Upholds CMS Rule Mandating Vaccines – Now What?

On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two significant opinions:

  • In Nat’l Fed. of Independent Business v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) emergency temporary standard (ETS) related to COVID-19 prevention measures, holding that the groups and businesses challenging the standard were likely to succeed in showing that the ETS requirements exceeded OSHA’s statutory authority.
  • In Biden v. Missouri, the Supreme Court lifted the stay of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Interim Final Rule (the CMS Rule) for health facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, holding that the Secretary had statutory authority to issue the mandate.

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Here We Go (Again): OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard Reinstated (Vaccine Mandates, Testing & Face Coverings for Large Employers)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on November 4, 2021, issued its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to choose between (1) implementing a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy, and (2) requiring face coverings and weekly testing for the nonvaccinated. That order was to go into effect on December 6, 2021, requiring the development of a policy and gathering proofs of vaccinations by that date, with the testing part taking effect on January 4, 2022. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on November 12 enjoined the ETS from taking effect; and following that order, OSHA stood down on enforcing the ETS. Much litigation followed, with a national consolidation of related cases shifted to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals; and that court on December 17 dissolved the order of the Fifth Circuit, reinstating the ETS.

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Summary of Cal/OSHA’s Revised COVID-19 ETS Adopted on December 16, 2021

On December 16, 2021, the California Occupational Safety & Health Standards (Cal/OSHA) Board voted to re-adopt its COVID-19 prevention emergency temporary standards (ETS) incorporating changes Cal/OSHA posted in preparation of its business meeting on December 16, 2021. If approved by the Office of Administrative Law (which is expected), the revised ETS will take effect on January 14, 2022 and will expire on April 14, 2022.

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OSHA Suspends Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) Enforcement Following Fifth Circuit Ruling – Now What?

On Friday, November 12, 2021, in BST Holdings, L.L.C, et al. v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Case # 21-60845, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an order affirming its November 6, 2021 order, staying the implementation and enforcement of OSHA’s November 5, 2021 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The ETS requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees who report to a workplace are vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. The Fifth Circuit, which many consider to be the most politically conservative of all the circuit courts, issued its order following an expedited briefing schedule, prompted by an emergency motion to stay the ETS filed by various individuals, employers, religious groups and states. Pending further judicial review, the order barred OSHA from taking steps to implement or enforce the ETS. In response, OSHA has suspended all activities related to the ETS for the time being, stating: “While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation.” Businesses now face an uncertain future with OSHA conceding that it will abide by the court’s order while pursuing its reversal. Because similar challenges to the ETS have been brought in all but one of the 12 federal circuit courts of appeals, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will conduct a lottery as required by statute, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. §2112 (a)(3),  likely this week, to select which federal circuit will hear appeals in the numerous challenges, including with respect to the Fifth Circuit’s order. Any outcome from the circuit selected in the lottery process may and likely will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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OSHA Issues COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for Certain Health Care Settings and Updates its Guidance for All Industries

On Thursday, June 10, 2021, OSHA issued its first Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) in 38 years, providing long-awaited guidance for health care settings that deal directly with patients suspected or confirmed to be COVID-19 positive. This ETS will remain in effect until a permanent standard is in place or OSHA determines there is no longer a grave danger to the covered workforce.

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Summary of Revisions to Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards

UPDATE: Cal/OSHA Withdraws June 3, 2021 revised ETS. In a special meeting held on the evening of June 9, 2021, the Cal/OSHA Board met to consider the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and California Department of Public Health regarding masking. The Board voted unanimously to withdraw the revisions to Cal/OSHA’s revised ETS that they had voted to approve on June 3, 2021, and that were set to go into effect on June 15, 2021 (pending approval from the Office of Administrative Law).  In a press release, Cal/OSHA stated that it will review the new mask guidance, bring any recommended revisions to the Board and that the Board could consider new revisions at a future meeting, perhaps as early as the regular meeting on June 17, 2021. In the meantime, the Cal/OSHA’s ETS adopted in November of 2020 will continue to remain in effect. Faegre Drinker will continue to monitor and provide insights with respect to Cal/OSHA’s revised ETS as well as other COVID-19-related topics. Insights will be updated on the firm’s COVID-19 Resource Center.

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