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OSHA’s Next Steps with the Vaccine or Test Rule

January 27, 2022

On Tuesday, January 25, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the withdrawal of the “Emergency Temporary Standard” (ETS) that would have required large private employers of 100 or more employees to implement a vaccine or test policy. This announcement came after the U.S. Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the ETS on January 13, 2022 pending a decision from the Sixth Circuit on the underlying proceedings challenging the ETS. The withdrawal of the ETS is effective as of January 26, 2022.

The announcement from OSHA made it clear that the withdrawal is not complete, stating:

“Although OSHA is withdrawing the Vaccination and Testing ETS as an enforceable emergency temporary standard, OSHA is not withdrawing the ETS to the extent that it serves as a proposed rule under section 6(c)(3) of the Act, and this action does not affect the ETS’s status as a proposal under section 6(b) of the Act or otherwise affect the status of the notice-and-comment rulemaking commenced by the Vaccination and Testing ETS.” OSHA’s withdrawal can be found here.

OSHA intends to keep the ETS as a proposed rule under OSHA’s rulemaking authority. This means that OSHA may choose to modify the previously published ETS and may rely on the Supreme Court’s opinion in doing so. OSHA may choose to implement ideas from the Supreme Court justices such as an industry or workplace specific analysis.  Additionally, OSHA is also likely to review the comments submitted during the notice and comment period for direction with respect to a potential final ETS.

While Tuesday’s announcement does not necessitate action by employers, it does leave the door open for future directives. Varnum’s Labor and Employment Team will continue to monitor these developments and provide updates.

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