Last Friday, the Illinois Department of Labor adopted the large-employer COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) issued by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The Illinois rule on this ETS was scheduled to go into effect on January 24, 2022. Yesterday however, the Supreme Court issued a decision to stay the OSHA rule mandating vaccination or masking for employers of 100 or more employees blocking the federal OSHA rule from going into effect.
The Supreme Court found the OHSA mandate to be “a significant encroachment into the lives—and health—of a vast number of employees.” The Court stated that “[t]he Act empowers the Secretary to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures” and reasoned that “[a]lthough COVID-19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most.” The Court concluded that “[p]ermitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life—simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock—would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization” and ruled that the vaccine mandate promulgated by OSHA goes beyond OSHA’s power to regulate. However, the majority did leave open the possibility that OSHA could regulate occupation-specific risks related to COVID–19, especially if the virus poses a specific danger because of the particular features of an employee’s job or workplace, such as workplaces that have crowded or cramped environments.
The Illinois Department of Labor made a statement following the ruling that it is analyzing the decision and its impact on state and local government employers. An updated statement from the Illinois Department of Labor clarifies that as the Illinois OSHA rule incorporated the federal ETS, the Illinois Department of Labor is staying enforcement of the rule. We will monitor any future developments.
The full decision of the Supreme Court is available at: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/21a244_hgci.pdf