ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Some of Rochester’s biggest employers are reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.
The Supreme Court’s decision came down to if OSHA has the power to mandate what choices employees make with their health when coming into work, instead of a worksite itself. Some major size companies argue adapting to those protocols was difficult to avoid violations.
While OSHA oversees the safety and health of a workplace, the Supreme Court did not see their authority carrying over to the health choices of workers themselves to be vaccinated.
“Basically, saying OSHA has the authority to regulate workplaces but the rule they had put into place was far too universal in addressing universal risk,” Attorney Kim Harding, a partner at Nixon Peabody LLC. Explained. “Whether you’re in a workplace or a Buffalo Bills game maybe.”
Besides getting a vaccine, employees could also submit to weekly testing. But for major employers like Heritage Christian Services, with thousands of employees spread throughout the state, it was a struggle to plan so staff wouldn’t miss work to get tested. Affecting services.
“Expanding that to weekly testing when we have over 3200 employees serving across 15 counties that started to get a bit difficult,” Heritage Christian Services CEO Marisa Geitner said. “We were anticipating this mandate to be in place by February 9th and I don’t believe the community services would have been there to meet the testing demand at all.”
All those we spoke to agreed getting the vaccine is key to beating this pandemic but argued not every workplace is the same and a blanket vaccine mandate was too broad to apply to every work environment.
“Every workplace is different,” Attorney Harding told us. “Like how much can you separate employees? How many barriers can you put between them? What kind of ventilation do you have? All of that plays into the analysis as you’re trying to put together a Covid-19 prevention plan.”
“Given the work that we do we’ve never let up on masking,” Geitner added. “We’re consistently masking up since it’s been required. Making sure we’re continuing the respected distance and making sure that our hygiene practices are top notch.”
As for the vaccine mandate of healthcare workers at facilities that receive government funding, legal experts tell us a key reason that stood was for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services overseeing the enforcement and they traditionally have authority over vaccine polices in these settings.