By Attorney Edward Abramson
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present a public health crisis as we start 2022 off with the Omicron variant and sporadic surges in infections. State, Federal, and local governments continue to adjust to the new normal and have worked to limit the spread and severity of the plague with mixed results.
Only a month ago there were not only vaccination mandates at the state level for all healthcare and daycare workers, but the federal government had also imposed requirements on the healthcare industry through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), on employers with 100 or more employees through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), and on all federal contractors.
Earlier this week OSHA and the Biden Administration ceased pursuing workplace vaccinate-or-test requirements for employers which is estimated to cover 84 million private sector employees. Earlier this month the Supreme Court shot down OSHA's temporary rule and it remains to be seen how the administration and OSHA will respond, whether they will pursue a mandate through the normal rulemaking process or if they will rely on the patchwork of other mandates to limit the spread of the virus in the workplace.
The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of the CMS vaccination rules for the healthcare industry, further complicating the vaccination mandate legal landscape. CMS has updated their timeline on implementation but with support from the Court it appears the federal government will at least be able to regulate Medicare and Medicaid program participating facilities.
Finally, on the federal front, last week a judge in Texas blocked implementation of the federal contractor vaccine mandate, though the Biden administration is confident they will prevail in the end, the mandate is currently on hold for all covered facilities.
At the State level, Illinois workers in select industries such as daycare and healthcare are still subject to vaccination mandates from the Governor's emergency declarations but whether most workers need to be vaccinated to reenter the workplace remains a private matter for each employer to decide. The scope of this mandate and the legality of employer responses to employee medical/disability and religious accommodation/exemption requests continues to develop through legal action.
We will continue to monitor this situation as it develops to better assist our clients in confronting vaccine mandate issues.