DENVER (CBS4)— The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to block President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large, private businesses Thursday. Biden wanted to use the power of government to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the nation’s highest court said the sweeping requirements were too broad.
The mandate would have applied to businesses with 100 or more employees. Some large companies, like Bonanno Concepts, have required their employees to be vaccinated for months. The court’s ruling won’t change their policy.
“People have been so happy to come somewhere that is vaccinated,” said Jessica Kinney, Director of People at Bonanno Concepts. “The places that are really taking care of their employees and trying to create a safe environment is appealing to a lot of people in a lot of ways.”
All 400 employees have shown proof of vaccination and soon proof of a booster. The Supreme Court says these mandates can’t be imposed on the 84 million Americans that Biden had hoped.
“In this instance, the court found OSHA, which is a federal agency, is only authorized to regulate workplace-specific hazards. And here, the court said, this isn’t workplace-specific. This is a universal hazard. And so OSHA went too far with this regulation,” said Martine Wells, an employment attorney at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP.
While Congress has given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, SCOTUS says Congress has not given the agency the ability to regulate public health.
“Chief Justice Roberts during oral arguments said unlike having to mask or wear steel-toed boots in the workplace, if the federal government requires people to have a vaccine to go into the workplace, they can’t take that off when they leave. So the court thought that this was just too broad of a rule on too broad of an issue that exceeded the authority of the agency,” said Wells.
While the court ruled the administration doesn’t have the authority to mandate broad, sweeping vaccine requirements, the mandate will still apply for healthcare workers.
“Chief Justice Roberts said it would be a tragedy if someone came to the hospital because they were sick with one thing and their health care provider got them sick with COVID. And so in this circumstance, the court found this is occupation-specific and industry-specific,” said Wells. “Even though the Court struck this down, I don’t think many employers who already have this and pop this policy in place are going to rescind it right now.”
Bonanno Concepts only lost 9 employees who didn’t want to comply with their vaccine requirement. However, it’s nothing compared to the new hires that wanted to work here because of their policy.
“Certainly it’s not going to change anything for us because this has been working really well for us,” said Kinney. “We’re starting to attract people who wouldn’t go out normally. I think has been really rewarding for our staff that has been through so much.”