Dr. Soumi Eachempati
What should corporations do now that the Supreme Court has spoken?
On Thursday, January 13, 2022, the Supreme Court voted against the OSHA mandates that would have required all employees at companies with over 100 workers to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 or receive weekly testing. In a related ruling, the Court decided to uphold a vaccine mandate with no exemption for weekly testing in those organizations that were receiving financial support or remuneration from Medicare or Medicaid.
This ruling will not end vaccine mandates. Instead, it will be just the beginning.
The burden for upholding COVID-19 safety will be changed to the companies and local governments. The general public was in favor of the mandates as announced by Biden. With the Supreme Court ruling completed on this issue, a flurry of local mandates is certain to be decreed in many areas, especially left-leaning jurisdictions.
Local mandates will persist
Precedents for the local mandates already exist. New York City has a more extensive mandate than the defunct OSHA mandates. In this locale, the requirement is for vaccination for all workers, not just those with companies with over 100 employees. Additionally, the NYC mandate does not even make provision for testing to avoid vaccination. Other mandates for vaccination already exist in over 20 states. Places already have vaccine mandates for health care workers such as California and Colorado that will predictably be extended to other types of employees after today’s Supreme Court decision.
Importantly, local mandates by states and cities are unlikely to be overturned or appealed to the higher courts. In this current ruling, the Supreme Court only ruled that the mandates designated by OSHA exceeded federal authority. In other rulings, the Supreme Court honored the continuation of state and local mandates that required vaccination for Covid-19.
Corporate mandates are already in place
More mandates will be created by corporations. Many companies are already requiring vaccinations for their workers including Citigroup, Netflix, Tyson Foods, Google, Apple, Coca-Cola, and Delta Airlines. More are sure to declare this mandate within weeks to protect their workers, maintain their productivity, and uphold their own public brand.
Importantly, each company will have to decide the right balance between vaccination, health surveys, testing, and contact tracing for their own situations. Many workplaces have unique characteristics that give workers different risks for Covid-19 infections. Some will have hybrid in-person attendance with sparsely populated offices at a given time while others may have crowded floors or spaces such as loading docks and manufacturing facilities.
You decide what is best for your organization productivity and reputation
Implementing the best solution for Covid-19 compliance and employee protection will be challenging for corporations. The leadership of each entity will have to use all its resources to maintain employee safety while complying with anticipated local and regional regulatory standards. Some will have challenges by having different standards at different corporate locations. Certain companies will have employees with different risk stratifications due to other traits regarding occupation or environment. Flexible, changeable solutions will be crucial as elements of the pandemic and local regulations ebb and flow.
The Supreme Court has given astounding responsibility to corporations. As the pandemic becomes endemic, organizations need to be ready to maintain long-term productivity and protect reputations. Predictably only the most prepared will survive. Predictably, the most prepared companies and organizations will have higher productivity, healthier teams, and the benefit of better morale as safety is prioritized.