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12/23/2021

U.S. Supreme Court Sets Hearing on Federal Vaccine Mandate

The highest court will hear arguments during a special session on Jan. 7.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue of the federal vaccine mandate on Jan. 7.

The court will hear arguments on the mandate during a special session just days before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) was set to begin enforcement of the rule on Jan. 10.

The Supreme Court was not scheduled to hear cases again until Jan. 10, The Associated Press reported.

The court's announcement followed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District in Cincinnati to lift a stay against the federal vaccine mandate. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District in New Orleans put the stay in place on Nov. 6 and declined to lift it on Nov. 12, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

At issue is OSHA's emergency temporary standard (ETS) that states all businesses with 100 or more employees require proof of vaccination. Unvaccinated employees would be required to be tested for COVID-19 once a week and wear a mask.

The mandate was set to go into effect Jan. 4; however, after the Sixth Circuit ruling, OSHA said it would not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before Jan. 10 and would not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard's testing requirements before Feb. 9.

On Jan. 7, the Supreme Court will also hear arguments over a rule published Nov. 5 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that applies to a wide range of healthcare providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. It requires their workers to receive the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 6 and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.

"Especially as the U.S. faces the highly transmissible omicron variant, it is critical to protect workers with vaccination requirements and testing protocols that are urgently needed," the White House said in a statement.

"At a critical moment for the nation's health, the OSHA vaccination or testing rule ensures that employers are protecting their employees and the CMS healthcare vaccination requirement ensures that providers are protecting their patients," the statement continued. "We are confident in the legal authority for both policies and [U.S. Department of Justice] will vigorously defend both at the Supreme Court."