Employment: SCOTUS Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Large Employers — How Will It Impact the Labor Shortage?

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The Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday to block the Biden administration from implementing a vaccine-or-test mandate on large employers was probably welcome news for companies having a hard time filling payrolls in the tight labor market.

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But the news might not have been so welcome for employees who have joined the Great Resignation out of fear of contracting COVID-19.

The SCOTUS vote in the employer mandate case was 6 to 3, The New York Times reported. In a separate 5 to 4 vote, the court did allow a mandate that requires healthcare workers at federally funded facilities to be vaccinated.

The employer mandate would have required workers at companies with 100 or more employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine and submit to weekly tests. Exceptions were allowed for workers with religious objections and those who don’t come into close contact with others at their jobs, such as outdoor or remote workers.

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The SCOTUS decision came after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the mandate in November. At the time, the mandate applied to more than 84 million workers.

With no mandate in place, large employers should have an easier time retaining and recruiting employees in the current labor market, many experts say.

“Ultimately, this could increase retention and hiring by some, given that unvaccinated individuals could now qualify for certain roles,” said Dr. Elora Voyles, an industrial-organizational psychologist and people scientist with TINYpulse, which provides solutions designed to help company leaders better engage with their workers.

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At the same time, she said, her company’s research has found that vaccinations are not that big an issue with most workers.

“Our data shows only 3.9% of employees would consider quitting over a mandate,” Voyles said in an email statement to GOBankingRates.

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According to a survey conducted by TINYpulse in November, about 22% of human resources and business leaders reported no vaccine policy in their organizations.

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“Given the Supreme Court ruling knocking down vaccine mandates for private businesses, organizations with no vaccine policy will no longer have any reason to implement one,” Voyles said. “I expect that the number of organizations with no vaccination policy will remain the same or potentially increase.”

One sector of the economy that could benefit from fewer vaccine restrictions is healthcare, which has faced major shortages of workers in the United States. Some of the nation’s biggest hospital systems — including HCA Healthcare and Tenet Healthcare — dropped vaccine mandates for staff after a federal judge temporarily halted a Biden administration mandate that healthcare workers get vaccines, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.

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Vaccine mandates had been considered a major factor in limiting the supply of healthcare workers, the WSJ reported, citing comments from hospital execs, public-health authorities and nursing groups.

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Meanwhile, a December article in USA Today quoted employment lawyers who said the federal vaccine mandate for large companies could worsen the labor shortage because it would force employees who test positive to quarantine even if they have no symptoms.

But a vaccine mandate might also have served another purpose: easing the fears of people who have left the workforce for health and safety reasons.

As GOBankingRates previously reported, one of the reasons some Americans have opted to join the Great Resignation is fear of COVID infection and quarantine. This is especially true in the transportation industry, where a shortage of truck drivers and cargo workers has been a major factor in the supply chain logjam. For these workers, the lack of a vaccine mandate might be an impediment to returning to work.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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