Supreme Court Reinstates Stay of OSHA’s ETS

Not surprisingly, particularly after a recent oral argument on January 7, 2022, the Supreme Court reinstated the national stay of OSHA’s ETS today. In doing so, the Court found that the petitioners were “likely to succeed on the merits.” As also expected, Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer dissented from the decision. Many practitioners, including the co-authors of this blog, questioned OSHA’s authority to issue the ETS for reasons discussed in prior blogs.  

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A Glimpse Into OSHA Today and Tomorrow

To state the obvious, the pandemic has resulted in completely unexpected change across the country in so many ways. OSHA’s visibility and role are probably one of the most significant changes to any federal agency. Prior to the pandemic, most businesses outside of specific industries like construction and manufacturing most likely had minimum, if any, interaction with OSHA unless it had a serious injury or fatality. Since then, OSHA has become a household name for any business, large or small, in its efforts to keep workers safe from COVID.

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5th Circuit Continues Stay of OSHA ETS – What Do Employers Do Now?

As we reported a day after the November 5, 2021, effective date of OSHA’s ETS, the Fifth Circuit issued a temporary stay of the ETS pending further proceedings. On November 12, 2021, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit continued the stay in a 22-page decision that contained numerous quotes and footnotes aggressively attacking the constitutionality of the ETS by stating, among other things, its promulgation grossly exceeds OSHA’s statutory authority. The Court further opined that the ETS is “fatally flawed” as its reach extends far beyond the Agency’s mission. The decision further noted, what many practitioners have already observed, that the ETS appears to be a “workaround” to impose a federal vaccine mandate.

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Are We Ever Going To See A COVID-19 ETS And, If So, What Will It Look Like? My Meeting With The White House This Week Didn’t Reveal Much

The one question on everyone’s mind is when, if ever, will employers learn whether OSHA will actually issue the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) that OSHA delivered to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget’s (“OMB”) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”) at some point in late April or early May to the general public. OIRA is required to engage in regulatory oversight under Executive Order 12866 and, as part of that oversight, has been conducting “listening sessions/meetings” with stakeholders. Many of us anticipated that we would have seen these meetings conducted and completed now, given this action’s “emergency” nature. 

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Why was OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Placed in “Limbo” by Secretary of Labor Walsh?

On January 21, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order directing OSHA to consider issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) related to COVID-19. If the ETS is deemed necessary, the executive order instructed OSHA to issue it by March 15, 2021. Now, nearly three and a half weeks past that date, the ETS has just been placed on “hold” by Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.

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