U.S. Supreme Court blocks vax rules for large employers

A Covid-19 vaccine and testing mandate that would have applied to U.S. businesses with more than 100 employees has been blocked in a split decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – which would have applied its emergency temporary standard to team drivers or other industry employees who are not isolated on the job – had already exempted many truck drivers.

U.S. Supreme Court
(Photo: istock)

But the Supreme Court challenge did not address plans for a separate U.S. vaccination mandate that is expected to be enforced on border-crossing truck drivers as of Jan. 22. TruckNews.com has not been able to independently verify the deadline or enforcement plans for those rules.

Canada is still expected to turn away unvaccinated or partially vaccinated U.S. truck drivers who attempt to cross the border as of Jan. 15. But Wednesday night, the Canada Border Services Agency reversed plans to require Canadian truck drivers to quarantine and be tested after driving back across the border.

A call between Canadian regulators and trucking industry representatives was scheduled for Thursday afternoon, to further clarify those rules.

Back to the OSHA rules

OSHA had already confirmed that its rules for the large U.S. businesses would not apply to truck drivers who do not occupy vehicles with other individuals, or to truck drivers who only encounter individuals in outdoor settings.

Conservative judges on the U.S. Supreme Court said OSHA could regulate risks in areas like crowded environments, but that the “indiscriminate approach” failed to account for the distinction between occupational and general risks.

“It is telling that OSHA, in its half century of existence, has never before adopted a broad public health regulation of this kind – addressing a threat that is untethered, in any causal sense, from the workplace,” the ruling noted.

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block commonsense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law. This emergency standard allowed employers to require vaccinations or to permit workers to refuse to be vaccinated, so long as they were tested once a week and wore a mask at work: a very modest burden,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement.
 
“As a result of the court’s decision, it is now up to states and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated.”

“Today ATA has won a tremendous victory on behalf of the trucking industry and workers and employers everywhere. Today’s ruling by the [U.S.] Supreme Court validates our claim that OSHA far overstepped its authority in issuing an emergency temporary standard that would interfere with individuals’ private health care decisions,” the American Trucking Associations (ATA) said in a related statement.

It was among several business groups to challenge the rule in different courts.

“Our industry has been on the front lines throughout the pandemic – delivering PPE, medical supplies, food, clothing, fuel, and even the vaccines themselves. Thanks to this ruling, our industry will continue to deliver critical goods, as our nation recovers from the pandemic and we move our economy forward.”

  • This story has been updated with comments from U.S. President Joe Biden.

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • What to think about it I did reading on the net that ther will be a fourth shot to be required now just imagine the confusion that will create among the population so what to say! should i get the first and second than the third and perhaps if still alive the fourth shot??