234405029 | Wirestock | Dreamstime
Jan 4 Vaccine Mandate

Vaccine mandate heads to special Supreme Court hearing

Dec. 31, 2021
The nine mostly conservative justices will ultimately decide the fate of the federal mandate, which industry trade groups hotly oppose as a severe restraint on the already-clogged supply chain

The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled a special Jan. 7 session to hear arguments over the controversial federal vaccine-or-test mandate for private employers with 100 or more workers that trucking stakeholders have taken a keen interest in and have sued to stop.

Under the disputed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rulemaking issued by the agency on Nov. 5, if employees choose not to be vaccinated, they must be tested for COVID-19 weekly or within seven days before returning to work.

Employers don’t have to pay for the weekly testing, but they must bear the administrative costs of documenting that their workers are vaccinated or are receiving negative test results. Employers also are responsible for providing paid time off (up to four hours) and subsequent sick days after the vaccination, as the shot may cause common side effects such as fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea.

The OSHA “emergency temporary standard” is set to take effect Jan. 4 and is expected to impact 84 million workers nationwide, though some workers—including truck drivers, the Labor Department has said—are excluded from the mandate, which also exempts people who work from home and those who work exclusively outdoors.

Trucking and trade groups, at least 24 mostly conservative state attorneys general, and a wide variety of other interests have argued both to their constituents and in various lower courts that OSHA doesn’t have the authority to issue such a mandate, that it violates their First Amendment rights, and in trucking’s case would disrupt an already-congested supply chain, harm the economy, and cost companies employees who would rather quit their jobs than be vaccinated or tested.

New briefs get to the heart of the arguments

Ahead of the Jan. 7 special Supreme Court session, the Washington Legal Foundation in its amicus brief in support of stopping the mandate covered many of those same points.

“What is causing these supply-chain issues and raising prices? Vaccine mandates,” the legal foundation argues in its brief. “When governments or companies require employees to get vaccinated, many employees quit or are fired. Those positions often remain unfilled because many job-seekers either refuse to join companies that require vaccines or move to jurisdictions without vaccine mandates.”

“It makes no sense for the federal government to exacerbate this problem by instituting a nationwide vaccine mandate for most businesses critical to our national economy.”