The Biden administration on Tuesday withdrew its proposed rule that large employers require their workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or wear masks and be tested weekly for the virus.
The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s decision came less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to OSHA’s efforts to enact the so-called Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) by blocking enforcement of it while the rulemaking process and litigation brought by a coalition of employers, religious groups and Republican-led states was pending.
In its 6-3 ruling in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. OSHA, the court said on Jan. 13 that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail in their claim that OSHA had overstepped its authority. The court said OSHA is empowered to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures.
OSHA said Tuesday it was withdrawing the proposed ETS effective immediately.
“After evaluating the Court’s decision, OSHA is withdrawing the Vaccination and Testing ETS as an enforceable emergency temporary standard,” OSHA said in a notice published on the Federal Register.
“OSHA finds good cause that the opportunity for public comment on this withdrawal is impracticable, unnecessary, and contrary to the public interest …. because it would unnecessarily delay the resolution of ambiguity for employers and workers alike,” OSHA said.
The OSHA ETS mandate would have affected more than 80 million people working for private employers. OSHA said that even though it was withdrawing the rule it “continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace.”