On Jan. 25, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the withdrawal of its COVID-19 vaccination-or-testing emergency temporary standard (ETS), effective Jan. 26.
OSHA’s withdrawal of the ETS, which required employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers were vaccinated against COVID-19 or underwent weekly testing, nullifies employers’ obligations under the standard. The withdrawal also discontinues the OSHA ETS case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
However, employers must continue to comply with state or local government vaccination and/or testing requirements, which are not affected by the withdrawal of the ETS.
The SHRM External Affairs team hosted an exclusive webcast on Jan. 14 about the Supreme Court’s decision to suspend enforcement of the ETS. The team also prepared a one-page update about the ruling and its implications for state policy.
On Jan. 19, SHRM submitted an official comment to OSHA regarding a potential final rule for a vaccine-or-testing mandate. SHRM called for a flexible, industry-specific response to COVID-19 in the workplace, with OSHA guidance materials that allow employers to adapt to changing conditions.
SHRM was also featured prominently in news coverage of the court’s decision. Chief of Staff and Head of Government Affairs Emily M. Dickens and members of SHRM’s Advocacy Team spoke with NBC News for the report ” Mixed response from businesses after SCOTUS ruling on vaccine mandates.”
“They designed it as if all the resources were there,” said Chris Schrader, Indiana SHRM State Council legislative director, of the OSHA ETS.
Schrader told NBC News that some of his clients were worried about how to comply with testing requirements for non-vaccinated employees when the closest thing to a health care facility might be a drugstore 25 miles away that might not have tests. “The rural factories were really worried,” he said. “It wasn’t even just the money -it was the disruption.”
While pausing the OSHA ETS, the Supreme Court ruled the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) vaccine mandate for workers at facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding can go into effect. Injunctions were lifted in 49 states, and a federal court in Texas later dismissed the state’s challenge to the mandate.
On Jan. 21, a federal court in Texas blocked the Biden administration’s federal worker vaccine mandate. The district court’s decision relied in part on the Supreme Court decision to stay OSHA’s ETS.