RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Like millions of Americans, you may have been waiting to hear from your employer about whether they will require you to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Biden administration issued a mandate that says companies with 100 or more employees must require that workers get vaccinated or require the unvaccinated get tested weekly and wear a mask on the job.
Legal challenges against the mandate mean the United States Supreme Court will decide if the federal government has that power.
The court spent hours Friday questioning attorneys on both sides.
“This one is so critical, so fast, and so important at the moment especially with omicron spreading. I expect they’re going to turn this one around very quickly. About everybody I know has either had or been in touch with a friend or family member or co-worker that’s got the virus right now, I’ve never seen it so widespread. And that’s not lost on them. The Supreme Court justices are still very much a part of the world and they know what’s going on out here in the world among us normal folks,” said Raleigh attorney Josh Howard.
Howard was part of the White House team that worked to confirm both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. He’s also licensed before the US Supreme Court.
So far, the high court has largely held up local vaccine mandates across the country.
Howard said this case is different.
“There’s a wing of the Supreme Court that’s just going to approve this no matter what but for the conservative wing things that are left to the state and local governments or private entities are more approvable, for the lack of a better term, than things that are brought down from Washington upon the whole nation. What works in Manhattan, New York doesn’t always work in Manhattan, Kansas,” Howard said.
Justices are also considering whether a vaccine mandate can be forced on health care workers in facilities that receive federal Medicaid and Medicare funds.
Part of the government’s argument is that the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health act gives them the right to take such action if it protects employees from “grave danger.”
What “grave danger” means though is not clearly defined in the law.
“So they will have to deal with the OSHA issue but the precedent this sets may affect federal law for at least a century,” said Howard.
So what does it mean if the justices rule against the mandate but you’ve already been fired for not being vaccinated?
“If you live in a right to work state as in the state of North Carolina then the companies might be at liberty to bring you back but in the absence of any state or local mandate that’s up to the company,” Howard said.
If the state or local government has mandated vaccines or testing the Supreme Court’s decision has no effect.
Howard said he wouldn’t take a bet on how the justices will ultimately rule.
“I wouldn’t bet anymore on this than I would on Monday night’s national championship game.”