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Source & Scope of Public Health Legal Powers

National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor and Ohio v. Department of Labor

Overview

National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor and Ohio v. Department of Labor (U.S. Supreme Court, Jan. 13, 2022): On request by various states, businesses, and other organizations, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency temporary standard mandating COVID-19 vaccination or testing in many U.S. workplaces. The OSHA rule required that employers with 100 or more employees, regardless of industry, implement a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination program in the workplace, or opt for a weekly testing alternative. The Court, stating that the OSHA rule “is no ‘everyday exercise of federal power,’” but “instead a significant encroachment into the lives—and health—of a vast number of employees,” concluded that the Secretary of Labor, via the Occupational Safety and Health Act, lacked the authority to issue the standard. Specifically, the Secretary, through OSHA, is granted authority over occupational safety and work-related dangers, “not broad public health measures” which lack a causal relationship to one’s occupation. Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, in a strong dissent, explained that the majority had placed limitations on OSHA’s authority that were nowhere to be found in statute. Read the full decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – January 14, 2022.

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