La. court sides with Ochsner over vaccine mandates while nation’s top court appears posed to block federal mandates

Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 5:37 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Louisiana’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state’s largest health system over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers, while the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on lawsuits against the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandates.

Ochsner Health can fire workers who do not comply with the vaccination requirement as a result of the La. Supreme Court’s decision.

And on the national level, Louisiana’s ttorney general’s office, some other states, and others who oppose federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates got their day in court at the highest court in the U.S. on Friday.

Osha issued a rule mandating large companies impose a vaccination or testing requirement and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said healthcare facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds must require their staff to be vaccinated against the virus.

“The issue in both of these is really the same, does the agency, this federal agency have the power to do this?” said Joel Friedman, a Tulane University law school professor.

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump appointee who is a native of Louisiana, seemed to side with opponents. During questioning, she brought up the scope of the OSHA rule.

“If OSHA had adopted a more targeted rule, you would not be contesting that. The problem here is its scope and that there is no differentiation between the risk faced by unvaccinated 22-year-olds and unvaccinated 60-year-olds or industries?” said Barrett.

Justice Elena Kagan, an Obama appointee, said most businesses have been impacted by the pandemic.

“Every workplace has been affected by COVID, every workplace sent their workers home, every workplace had to make adjustments to the way they did their business,” said Kagan.

A 1970 law gives OSHA authority to issue emergency rules for workplace safety. Friedman says that law deals with protecting workers from exposure to physically harmful hazards.

“Here the hazard is COVID which you don’t get in the workplace, you get everywhere. So the states that oppose this said, in part, ‘you don’t have the authority to do this,’” Friedman said.

With or without federal requirements, private companies can mandate vaccinations for their workers.

“Any private company they could require as we do at Tulane, all employees to get vaccinated. Unless they have a medical exemption, or disabled, or a religious exemption,” said Friedman.

Many legal observers say conservative justices on the Supreme Court, through their questioning, appear poised to block the vaccine and testing mandate for companies.

“Under ideological eyes, the majority would probably vote to throw this rule out,” he said.

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