The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will not be legally required to mandate the COVID vaccine for its employees as a result of the Supreme Court ruling issued today on vaccine mandates.
The Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate that would have required large businesses with 100 or more employees to require their employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing and wear masks when at work.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was the federal agency that imposed the vaccine mandate on private businesses which took effect on Monday. The Supreme Court struck it down because it concluded that the law which created OSHA “empowers the Secretary [of Labor] to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures.”
It added, “Although COVID-19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most. COVID–19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather. That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases.” (NFIB v. OSHA)
The Court did, however, uphold a vaccine requirement for most U.S. health care workers.
The USPS had recently asked OSHA for a 120 day waiver from the vaccine mandate, saying that it would negatively impact the agency’s ability to deliver mail and packages.
“We respectfully suggest that the nation cannot afford the additional potential substantial harm that would be engendered if the ability of the Postal Service to deliver mail and packages is significantly negatively impacted,” Deputy Postmaster General Douglas Tulino wrote in his letter to OSHA.
Whether or not the Postal Service chooses to require vaccinations for its employees will now be up to the agency rather than a federal agency mandate. In remarks on the Supreme Court ruling, although he was “disappointed” by the outcome of the Court’s decision on the OSHA vaccine mandate, President Biden said:
As a result of the Court’s decision, 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. The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy. I call on business leaders to immediately join those who have already stepped up – including one third of Fortune 100 companies – and institute vaccination requirements to protect their workers, customers, and communities.
What About Other Federal Employees?
Although the USPS was covered by the OSHA vaccine mandate for large businesses, the majority of the federal workforce is still under a separate vaccine mandate issued by President Biden last year specifically for federal employees. As things stand now, that has not changed, and in fact, federal agencies are expected to begin issuing harsher penalties soon for any federal employees not in compliance with the mandate.
A number of lawsuits have been filed challenging the federal employee vaccine mandate. Whether or not the Supreme Court decisions issued today will have any impact on this mandate remains to be seen.