Like everyone who believes in respecting people’s fundamental rights and dignity, I was relieved by the Supreme Court’s ruling declaring unconstitutional the OSHA rule requiring businesses with over 100 employees to force their employees to undergo medical procedures. For this rule to have gone into effect would have been a tragedy, a grave injustice, and an unprecedented disaster for individual liberty.
Here are a few of my thoughts on the ruling:
First of all, as many people have pointed out, the ruling did not go far enough. The court upheld the federal policy requiring the Covid vaccine for all employees at medical places that accept Medicare and/or Medicaid funds. This is unjust and wrong because it eliminates an entire career field as a possibility for people who value their dignity, their privacy, and their right to make their own medical decisions. But at least the ability to work at a company with 100 or more employees is not completely eliminated, as the Biden administration was attempting to do.
Second, the ruling established merely that OSHA does not have the power to require businesses to force their employees to undergo medical procedures. The ruling does nothing to bar Congress from enacting such a policy, let alone states, cities, or individual companies. This is disturbing. In my opinion, no one has a right to require medical procedures as a condition of doing anything. Neither Congress nor states nor cities nor individual companies should be able to enact such a requirement. If the United States was truly a free country, the federal government would take the initiative to protect individual liberty by enacting a law banning medical mandates by any entity.
Defenders of the OSHA rule have argued that the provision giving employees the option of getting a Covid test every week in lieu of the vaccine addresses concerns about medical liberty. I strongly disagree with this claim. Covid vaccination and Covid tests are both medical procedures. And the OSHA rule would have required employees at companies with over 100 workers to do one or the other. Telling someone, “It’s fine not to do this medical procedure; you just have to do this other medical procedure instead ” is completely unacceptable, because it eliminates the option of doing neither. The right to decline medical procedures is fundamental and absolute. It cannot be taken away under any circumstances. Some people consider Covid tests less objectionable than vaccination. But that does not matter. People have a fundamental right to do neither. The OSHA rule would have taken that right away.
Another observation is that many people have characterized the debate over the OSHA rule as a question of employers’ rights. Many people argue that the rule violates the rights of companies by forcing them to be the “vaccine police” for their employees. This is true, but in my opinion the more fundamental problem with the OSHA rule is that it violates employees’ rights. By forcing companies to violate their workers’ rights, the federal government is certainly harming companies, but it is more fundamentally harming workers, because they are the ones being forced to get unwanted medical procedures.
As the majority of the justices pointed out, the fundamental reason why the OSHA rule is wrong is that it invades employees’ private lives. Unlike, say, masks, respirators, face shields, goggles, gloves, or other PPE, a vaccine is not something that one puts on in the workplace and can take off when one goes home. Unlike, say, bans on smoking or carrying firearms while at work, medical mandates do not merely govern people’s conduct at work and allow them to do what their please in their own time. Undergoing a medical intervention such as a vaccine affects a person while they are at work as well as while they are at home. It affects them while on the clock and while off the clock. Medical decisions about one’s body are the most personal decisions that an individual makes. These decisions are well outside the scope of what an employer should be able to control, regulate, or even know about.
I have heard people use the word “protect” to characterize what the OSHA rule would have done to workers at affected companies. Nothing could be further from the truth. OSHA was founded to protect workers from hazards at the workplace. It was founded to prevent employers from forcing their workers to be around toxic chemicals, to operate dangerous machinery, or do repetitive motions that cause injury, for example. In other words, the purpose of OSHA is to prevent companies from doing harmful things to their workers. However, by enacting the vaccine-or-test policy, OSHA required companies to do harmful things to their workers. To force people to do something they do not want to do is inherently harmful and therefore the exact opposite of protecting them. Under the direction of the Biden administration, a government entity whose purpose is to protect workers did the opposite.
Thank goodness that the Supreme Court (at least partially) righted this terrible wrong.