OSHA Formally Withdraws Its Vaccine-or-Test Mandate

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is formally withdrawing its emergency temporary standard requiring large companies to require their employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, the agency announced January 25.

The withdrawal of the standard comes after a January 13 U.S. Supreme Court opinion staying the standard, saying that challengers to the rule were likely to prevail on their claims. The high court voted 6-3 to stay the temporary standard, ruling that OSHA did not have the authority to issue the mandate.

The mandate, issued November 5, would have required companies with 100 or more employees to see that their employees get vaccinated, or wear face coverings and test weekly.

OSHA said that public comments on the mandate withdrawal would be “impracticable, unnecessary and contrary to the public interest because it would unnecessarily delay the resolution of ambiguity for employers and workers alike.”

The agency’s pre-publication Federal Register announcement said: “Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the vaccination and testing [emergency temporary standard], OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace.”

Although the justices issued a stay — or hold — on the mandate, sending it back down to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a possible challenge by the Department of Labor, the withdrawal by OSHA effectively signals the end of a possible challenge by the Labor Department.