Is This the End of Employee Vaccine Mandates in the United States?

The vaccination status of American workers hit the headlines again last week, with proposed legislation running into a dead end at the U.S. Supreme Court.

In November last year, President Biden put forward new rules regarding the mandatory vaccination of private sector employees in the United States. Although billed by the White House as a crucial phase of the government’s ‘Path Out of the Pandemic’ action plan, the proposal was met with considerable opposition, with several groups questioning how ethical it is to mandate vaccines in this way.

This led to a legal challenge being made in the U.S. Supreme Court, and on January 13th, judges blocked the mandate from coming into force for all non-federal employees, with the exception of some health care workers.

With no nationwide consensus in place, large businesses will have conflicting state policies to negotiate as they look for clarity regarding employee vaccination requirements.


What were the proposed vaccine mandate rules?


The Biden administration had initially instructed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce proof of vaccination for all private companies employing more than 100 workers – a change that would have impacted up to 80 million individuals across America.

The proposal required onsite employees to provide proof of vaccination (two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson). As an alternative, unvaccinated workers were being offered a weekly testing option, although they would still need to wear face coverings in shared work environments.

The law would have permitted employers to suspend or dismiss workers that were not willing to follow the regulations.

The government indicated that continued non-compliance was to be punished through a financial penalty system:

  • $13,653 fine for individuals
  • $136,532 fine for employers


Why were mandatory vaccinations being proposed?


The emergence of a fourth wave of COVID infections jolted the government into taking action regarding vaccination requirements. By passing responsibility onto the employer, it was hoped that vaccination rates would increase across the country, circumventing the need for ‘lockdown’ restrictions.



Why was the vaccine mandate blocked?


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that although OSHA is responsible for workplace safety, the department would be overstepping its authority if it were to enforce nationwide vaccine mandates on regular workers.


What next for mandatory vaccinations?


Although the court ruling prevents a comprehensive employee vaccine mandate, it has paved the way for mandatory vaccinations rules to be applied to the health care sector in order to protect the health of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

President Biden praised the ruling regarding health care staff, but expressed frustration at the denial of vaccine mandates in a general business context.

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” Biden said.

It appears that the government will continue to do all it can to encourage vaccination.

Biden went on to say “it is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated.”


Where does this leave employers?


As Joe Biden’s comments suggest, individual States still have the power to pass legislation regarding employee vaccination. Employers nationwide are also at liberty to introduce their own vaccination policies.

Last year, when the Biden administration proposed mandatory vaccination guidelines, many businesses planned ahead, introducing their own rules in anticipation of upcoming mandates. It remains to be seen whether these organizations will continue to impose them, or revert to business as normal in light of recent events.


What impact could vaccine requirements have on recruitment?


Vaccination rules affect various phases of the recruitment process; most notably, sourcing and onboarding.

Firstly, it is vital that staffing and recruitment agencies provide clarity regarding employee vaccination requirements. A solid understanding of vaccine policies needs to be conveyed to both clients and candidates before the hiring process begins. The employer will need to decide whether they are prepared to accommodate unvaccinated applicants (remote working, regular testing etc.), or only want to consider fully-vaccinated individuals.

Agencies must communicate expectations in a consistent and professional manner. Mindscope offers a templated document builder that enables recruiters to securely distribute standardized messages to hundreds of clients and candidates at a time.

Candidates that agree to disclose their vaccination status can be flagged accordingly within the Mindscope Applicant Tracking System. From the database, recruiters can use Mindscope’s Boolean search capabilities to filter candidates by vaccination status and create hotlists to focus exclusively on viable candidates. Not only does this speed up the hiring process, but it also means that there are less likely to be unwanted surprises uncovered further down the recruitment pipeline.

When onboarding new employees, timely access to up-to-date vaccination records and COVID-19 test results is crucial. It can be particularly difficult to organize when hiring multiple employees at once.

Mindscope seamlessly integrates the Able onboarding platform to make COVID-19 documentation management as hassle-free as possible. This integration means that recruiters can use the system to set documentation criteria for candidates. If mandatory information is missing, users can send automatic notifications to applicants, prompting them to submit the required documents. The platform is mobile-friendly, enabling new employees to upload necessary files directly from their smartphone in an instant.

All of the information submitted is attached to a candidate’s profile in the applicant tracking system and securely stored for future reference.



Mindscope provides innovative, user-friendly staffing and recruitment products designed to facilitate a seamless hiring process. We are committed to helping our customers succeed – contact us today to see how we can transform your recruitment activities.