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Supreme Court stays implementation of OSHA’s vaccination mandate

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The U.S. Supreme Court decision yesterday halted the implementation of a U.S Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccination rule, which applies to businesses with at least 100 workers.

A U.S. Labor Department official last week confirmed to Samoa News that the Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (EST) rule on COVID-19 also applies to employers in American Samoa.

Under the OSHA mandate, businesses with at least 100 employees would be required to adopt a mandatory vaccination policy unless they adopted a policy requiring unvaccinated workers to undergo weekly testing and wearing a face covering at work.

“Covered employers must provide paid time for workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine and ensure workers have paid sick leave to recover from any side effects that prevent them from working,” according to the now stayed rule, for which employers were given a timeline to comply.

According to the Supreme Court ruling, the OSHA mandate — which was to be enforced by employers — applied to roughly 84 million U.S workers.

“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the Supreme Court decision says.

The decision notes that many states, businesses, and nonprofit organizations challenged OSHA’s rule in U.S Courts of Appeals across the country.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit court initially entered a stay. But when the cases were consolidated before the U.S Sixth Circuit court, that court lifted the stay and allowed OSHA’s rule to take effect. Sixth Circuit concluded that a stay of the rule was not justified. “We disagree,” the Supreme Court decision said.

“Applicants now seek emergency relief from this Court, arguing that OSHA’s mandate exceeds its statutory authority and is otherwise unlawful,” the Supreme Court said. “Agreeing that applicants are likely to prevail, we grant their applications, and stay the rule.”

Applicants are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Secretary lacked authority to impose the mandate,” it says noting that the matter goes back to the Sixth Circuit court.

In American Samoa, the territory’s largest private employer, StarKist Samoa has already made it mandatory — beginning last month — for employees to be fully vaccinated and there are exemptions. Those with exemptions from doctors like those breastfeeding or other medical reasons are exempted from the mandate.

For the American Samoa Government, employees of the Executive Branch have been given until Jan. 14 this year to comply with the fully vaccinated mandate issued by the governor. However, the mandate does not apply to semi-autonomous agencies of ASG, that are governed by boards.

Click on attachment to download full text of the Supreme Court decision