On Oct. 19, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block Maine’s vaccine requirement for health care workers. We’ve gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.
Breyer Rejected Emergency Appeal
The Maine vaccine mandate requires hospital and nursing home workers to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. Justice Stephen Breyer rejected the emergency appeal but left the door open for the plaintiffs to try again as the deadline on Maine’s mandate nears. The state will begin enforcing it Oct. 29.
Another Ruling Due
A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the emergency appeal before Breyer rejected it. Nonetheless, the appeals court fast-tracked additional arguments. That provides enough time for another ruling before enforcement of the vaccine mandate begins at the end of next week. Mat Staver, founder and chair of the Liberty Counsel, which challenged the vaccine mandate, said the Supreme Court is ready to consider the case “if we do not get relief” from the appeals court in the coming days. The Liberty Counsel claimed to represent more than 2,000 health care workers. The Maine attorney general’s office declined to comment.
No Religious Exemption
Health care workers contested the order issued by Gov. Janet Mills because it does not include a religious exemption. The state has granted such an accommodation for religious objections to previous vaccination mandates, they contended.
“Anyone who is placed in the care of a health care worker has the right to expect—as do their families—that they will receive high-quality, safe care from fully vaccinated staff,” Mills said when she announced in September that the state would begin enforcing its vaccine mandate on Oct. 29. State governments’ right to impose vaccine requirements was upheld in 1905, when the Supreme Court decided Massachusetts could require vaccines against smallpox.
Religious Exemptions Ordered in New York
Nonetheless, New York state must let employers provide religious exemptions to a mandate that state health care workers get vaccinated against COVID-19, at least while litigation over New York’s mandate proceeds, a federal district court judge decided Oct. 12. The question in the case is whether the state’s elimination of a religious exemption conflicts with the plaintiffs’ and other individuals’ federally protected right to seek a religious accommodation from their individual employers, according to the court. “The answer to this question is clearly yes,” the court said.
Sotomayor Declined to Block New York City’s Vaccination Mandate
On Oct. 1, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor declined to block New York City’s vaccination mandate against COVID-19 for all city Department of Education employees. A federal appeals court on Sept. 27 ruled in New York City’s favor on the vaccine mandate.
[see SHRM members-only COVID-19 Vaccination Resources]
Indiana University’s Policy Upheld
In August, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees and students, leaving in place the rulings of lower courts in favor of the university’s requirements. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett denied students’ challenge of the mandate.