The Department of Labor announced Tuesday that it would withdraw its vaccine-or-test requirement for large private employers after the United States Supreme Court dealt the Biden administration’s coronavirus strategy and the rule itself a decisive blow when it blocked its enforcement earlier this month.
Effective Wednesday, the temporary standard – which was issued in November by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and would have required employers with more than 100 workers to mandate vaccination or face weekly testing – will be withdrawn, the agency said on its website, seeming to acknowledge that the outlook of the rule was grim even as it was slated to head back to lower courts for further consideration.
“Although OSHA is withdrawing the vaccination and testing ETS (emergency testing standard) as an enforceable emergency temporary standard, the agency is not withdrawing the ETS as a proposed rule,” OSHA said in a statement.
“The agency is prioritizing its resources to focus on finalizing a permanent COVID-19 Healthcare Standard. OSHA strongly encourages vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace.”
The Supreme Court’s decision on Jan. 13, emphasizing that the agency may set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures, came days after the rule took effect, as companies nationwide had been grappling with how to manage their personnel while they awaited word from the high court, and followed months of pushback from dozens of state leaders over what some dubbed a federal overreach.
The White House had remained confident in their rule’s legal standing, however, and President Joe Biden even encouraged opponents of the rule who threatened legal action early on to “have at it.” But the high court’s decision earlier this month left the president with few options remaining.
Since the Supreme Court’s announcement, Biden, saying he was “disappointed” in the high court’s decision to block the “common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses,” has delegated to state leaders and employers, asking them to “do the right thing” by imposing vaccine requirements of their own.