The U.S. Supreme Court said Wednesday it will hear arguments on an expedited basis over President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test measure for companies employing 100 or more workers. It will also hear a case challenging vaccine mandates for healthcare workers.

Justices will take up both cases Jan. 7, the first involving an Occupational Safety and Health Administration measure for large employers requiring them to either be vaccinated or subject to regular COVID-19 testing.

The other case involves the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rule, which requires vaccinations for employees at medical facilities participating in the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs.

"Especially as the US faces the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it is critical to protect workers with vaccination requirements and testing protocols that are urgently needed. At a critical moment for the nation’s health, the OSHA vaccination or testing rule ensures that employers are protecting their employees and the CMS health care vaccination requirement ensures that providers are protecting their patients. We are confident in the legal authority for both policies and DOJ will vigorously defend both at the Supreme Court," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Wednesday.

Last week, the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated the mandate for large businesses, issuing a 2-1 ruling that lifted an injunction blocking the OSHA rule.


The circuit court noted in its decision that OSHA has historical precedent for using wide discretion to ensure worker safety and “demonstrated the pervasive danger that COVID-19 poses to workers — unvaccinated workers in particular — in their workplaces."

As it stands, the requirement will go into effect beginning Feb. 9 after it was pushed back from a previous implementation date of Jan. 4. Unvaccinated employees were required to start wearing masks indoors beginning Dec. 5.

“COVID-19 is spreading in workplaces, and workers are being hospitalized and dying,” the Justice Department argued in a court filing Dec. 17. “As COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise and a new variant has emerged, the threat to workers is ongoing and overwhelming.”

Those challenging the mandate include 27 states with Republican attorneys general or governors, religious groups, private businesses, and national industry associations, including the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Retail Federation.

Biden first proposed the rules Nov. 4 in an effort to cover more than 100 million U.S. workers, emphasizing his goal to vaccinate as many U.S. citizens as possible — part of a larger effort to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The mandate covering healthcare workers requires 76,000 health facilities to ensure as many as 17 million employees are fully vaccinated against the virus.

Employers who don't enforce the rule could be subject to fines up to $14,000 per violation, though it is not immediately clear how OSHA plans to enforce its rule.


So far, petitioners challenging various vaccine mandates across the country have not gained much favor in cases reaching the highest court. Aside from refusing to grant relief to petitioners in Maine, the Supreme Court also declined to block Indiana University from implementing a vaccine mandate for members of the institution.