• Dr. Soumi Eachempati

How does the latest legal decision on the Biden mandates affect businesses?

Yes Virginia, Omicron really is suddenly a whopping 73% of US COVID-19 infections!

With the astonishing spread of Omicron over the past week to become the dominant US variant, vaccine mandates have accrued major importance. On Friday, December 17, the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld the validity of the vaccine mandates for businesses created by OSHA. This ruling allows OSHA to start enforcing the mandates.

Naturally, the ruling was surrounded by controversy, a flurry of lawsuits and has already been appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Omicron Factor

Society is facing a serious challenge with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and the high risk engendered by the holiday season. Vaccination has proven the only way to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and diminish the mortality of the disease.

Businesses need to consider all the issues in addition to the legal ramifications if they want to keep their employees safe and protect their productivity. Many large corporations including Netflix, Google, Tyson’s Foods, Disney, and others have imposed their own mandates. Public opinion appears to support the mandates as well. If the national mandates are struck down, more companies would just create internal mandates to keep their own workers safe, especially those in high-risk situations. Legally, the mandates do have basis.

There is plenty more evidence that mandates are here to stay in some form. Enough people have noted that vaccines protect individuals in society from dying from COVID-19 infection. When vaccine mandates are implemented in certain areas such as the New York City Municipal workers or the Boeing factories, they have been successful at increasing vaccination rates to over 90%. Employees have very varied opinions but many will demand protection from their employers from any workplace hazard including COVID-19. Mandates will never prevent lawsuits but they may assist in corporate legal defense. Over 4000 lawsuits have already been filed against employers and there appears no evidence that this trend will diminish.

How We Got Here

The lawsuits were created as a reaction to the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) created by OSHA addressing businesses with more than 100 employees. The ETS requires mandatory vaccination or weekly testing for all workers in these larger businesses. Separate standards for mandatory vaccination were created for federal contractors and businesses receiving funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. The latter two mandates did not offer the option of weekly testing as an alternative to vaccination.

The court case for businesses with over 100 employees had been placed in the Cincinnati court following the consolidation of lawsuits from 27 states challenging the mandate. One of the tense cases emerged from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans where enforcement of the mandates was struck down in that court.