The high court in its decision said that while OSHA had power granted by Congress to regulate occupational dangers, the agency did not have the authorization “to regular public health more broadly.”
Kathryn Bakich, a senior vice president who focuses on workplace compliance issues for the employee benefits consulting firm Segal said, “Although the Supreme Court stayed the federal government’s OSHA rule, the ruling has no bearing on whether an individual employer can impose a vaccine mandate on its workforce.”
Bakich noted that the high court on the same day allowed a Biden administration mandate for vaccinations of millions of health-care workers at employers who treat patients covered by the massive federal Medicare and Medicaid health programs.
“Employers shouldn’t read into the decision a lack of support for vaccines, workplace vaccine requirements, or meaningful public health measures,” Bakich said.
The National Retail Foundation praised the ruling blocking the mandate on large companies as a “significant victory” for employers.
The NRF noted in a statement that it had joined with more than two dozen other trade associations to make oral arguments this week opposing the mandate, which it called “onerous and unprecedented.”
But the retail foundation also said it “has maintained a strong and consistent position related to the importance of vaccines in helping to overcome this pandemic.”
And, anticipating Biden’s later statement on the ruling, the NRF said it “urges the Biden Administration to discard this unlawful mandate and instead work with employers, employees and public health experts on practical ways to increase vaccination rates and mitigate the spread of the virus in 2022.”
David Gordon, a partner at the New York law firm Mitchell Silberberg Knupp, said that as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, “employers will now be free to set their own requirements, subject to applicable state and local laws.”
Gordon noted that, “This ruling makes no difference for New York City employers and employers in other jurisdictions that will require that all employees be vaccinated.”
“Employers in those locations will still be subject to applicable vaccine mandates,” he said.
But Gordon also said the ruling will allow a large employer to make a decision on vaccinations that reflects competition in the job market for workers.
“It’s no longer an even playing field among large employers in terms of recruitment,” Gordon said. “Now, if a large employer believes that it would be advantageous not to require employees to be vaccinated, it will be free not to adopt a vaccine mandate if permissible where they are located.”
Starbucks last month said that all American workers of the giant coffee shop chain must be vaccinated by Feb. 9 or be tested.
Previously, large employers including American Express, Amtrak, Citigroup, General Electric, Google, Jeffries, NBCUniversal, Southwest Airlines, Tyson Foods and United Airlines had imposed vaccine mandates on employees, or at least on workers who were returning to physical offices.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.