On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor pushed back on using the term “vaccine mandate” during a hearing on Pres. Joe Biden’s administration’s contested COVID-19-related regulations that were outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
During the oral arguments, Sotomayor said: “There’s no requirement here. It’s not a vaccine mandate. It’s something totally different. And I don’t know how much clearer than six fifty-one Congress could have been.”
Sotomayor’s statement seems to stem from a claim that, due to the fact that the mandate allows the substitution of the mandatory vaccines with weekly testing, it is therefore not a mandate.
According to OSHA, it is included in its Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standards, which covers businesses or employers that have 100 or more employees.
“The ETS requires covered employers to establish, implement, and enforce a written mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy with an exception for employers that instead establish, implement, and enforce a written policy that requires unvaccinated employees to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at the workplace instead of vaccination.”
Scott Keller, who represented the National Federation of Independent Business, argued that the regulations set by OSHA had initially been passed to protect workers from those who are unvaccinated. He also maintained that it is now obsolete because there is “CDC guidance contradicting foundational assumptions” of these regulations.
To this, Sotomayor quickly stated that “Yes, that may be true, but we are now having deaths at an unpressed amount, catching COVID keeps people out of the workplace for extraordinary periods of time.”
The Supreme Court justice continued on to compare safety regulations that protect people from workplace hazards to mandates that counter human illness with mandated treatment.
Sotomayor said, “And there have been proof and certain industries like the medical industry that when vaccines are mandated – and there’s no mandate here for a vaccine – there is a masking mandate no different than there is when we tell people that if there are sparks flying in the workplace where you have workers have to be provided, will have to wear a mask.”
“So that’s no different in my mind than this,” she went on to say.