Several large corporations across the country including Starbucks, General Electric, Intel and Adidas are dropping COVID-19 vaccine mandates and weekly testing policies.1 The policy changes came following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down COVID vaccine mandates for companies with more than 100 employees, which were put into place by the Biden administration.
Other corporate business such as Amazon, Walmart and JPMorgan Chase also have relaxed mask mandates for their vaccinated employees.4
Corporations, which have made the decision to drop their COVID vaccine requirement, are still encouraging employees to get vaccinated but will not make it a condition for employment. According to Bloomberg, more than one-third of U.S. employers will still implement a COVID vaccine mandate.3
Companies Weigh Employee Retention and Public Perception When Deciding COVID Vaccine Policy
Many of the companies choosing to continue with COVID vaccine mandates have based the decision upon employee absenteeism reportedly caused by COVID illness, concern over employee retention, and the desire to attract future employees to their company.3 Brian Kropp, chief of human resources research for Gartner, Inc., stated that how companies choose to move forward with COVID-related decisions will “define, perhaps, forever how employees, customers and prospective talent perceive your company.”5
Supreme Court Rules COVID Vaccine Mandate Is Public Health Overreach
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 17 decision to block the vaccinate-or-test requirement was led by the National Federation of Independent Business and 27 Republican-led states. The lawsuit challenged the policy from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), arguing that it exceeded the agency’s legal authority.3
Had the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate been upheld by the Supreme Court, it would have impacted more than 80 million U.S. workers. In the ruling, the court said:
Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category… The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it.6
The Supreme Court ruled that healthcare workers, who are employed by facilities receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid, may continue to be required to comply with COVID vaccine mandates.6
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision striking down mandates for corporate America, President Biden responded:
It is now up to states and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated.6
Federal Employer COVID Vaccine Mandate Halted
Vaccine requirements for federal employees have also been halted as a judge in Texas issued an injunction on President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for government employees. The lawsuit was brought by the group Feds for Medical Freedom, as well as the American Federation of Government Employees Council. The Biden administration filed an immediate appeal to the injunction. The Court of Appeals will hear the case on Apr. 8.7
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Click here to view References:
1 Gibson K. More big companies are dropping vaccine requirement for workers. CBS News Feb. 17, 2022.
2 White House. Fact sheet: Biden administration announces details of two major vaccination policies. Nov. 4, 2021
3 Boyle M. Few employers plan to drop vaccine mandate after Supreme Court ruling. Bloomberg Jan. 25, 2022.
4 Tellez A. Amazon, Walmart, and JPMorgan Chase among companies relaxing employee mask mandates. NPR Feb. 15, 2022.
5 Kropp B. Global HR leaders reveal where their companies are at when it comes to COVID-19—and it’s not pretty. Gartner Aug. 6, 2021.
6 Quinn M. Supreme court blocks Biden’s COVID vaccine rule for companies, allows mandate for healthcare workers. CBS News Jan. 14, 2022.
7 Katz E. Federal court orders nationwide pause on Biden’s federal employee vaccine mandate. Government Executive Jan. 21, 2022.