Two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration's vaccine mandate for businesses meant to fight the spread of COVID-19, the federal government has officially scrapped the proposal.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Tuesday officially withdrew its emergency temporary order that would have required businesses with 100 or more employees to require their workers be vaccinated or require unvaccinated workers to be tested weekly.
The decision to withdraw the ruling comes after the court blocked the mandate on Jan. 13. It did allow the rule to go forward for medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments.
The court ruled 6-3 that the rule exceeded the power given to the agency by Congress.
"It's good news. It takes away a cloud of uncertainty from thousands of employers. It creates some certainty for the first time," said Steve Stivers, president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
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The order from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was an emergency temporary order, said Catherine Burgett, an employment law attorney with the Frost Brown Todd law firm in Columbus.
"OSHA’s decision provides some much-needed certainty for employers, at least, for now," she said. "OSHA left open the possibility of issuing a final rule through the normal rule making process."
This rule was estimated to affect as many 84 million employees across the country. In Ohio, the requirement would have applied to nearly 2 million Ohio workers, including about 300,000 in Franklin County, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Ohio business leaders praise decision to cancel vaccine mandate
The Ohio Chamber had argued in legal filings that the 100-worker threshold was arbitrary and that aspects of the order are ambiguous. The brief also said the rule could make it even tougher for companies to find workers in an already tight labor market.
Stivers said the decision to withdraw the rule allows businesses to make the right decision for them, their workers and their customers.
"We think that is the right way to go forward," he said.
Should the Biden administration propose another rule, Stivers said businesses could be more open to it, depending on how it is crafted.
"I think employers can expect it to be more tailored and better able to withstand challenge," she said.
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Still, Burgett said the decision to withdraw the rule doesn't mean employers are off the hook when it comes to protecting their workers from the coronavirus.
"Employers should review their own policies and procedures and take steps to ensure they are meeting their obligation to provide a safe workplace," she said. "OSHA may have withdrawn the (order), but it is unlikely to give employers a free pass on protecting employees from the spread of COVID-19 at work."
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio business leaders praise decision to cancel COVID vaccine mandate