Press Release

ALEC Comment on Supreme Court Ruling of OSHA Mandate

January 14th, 2022
Bill Ashworth
ALEC lauds the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s private employer vaccine mandate. SCOTUS clearly recognizes what ALEC members have long known – that local decisions are best made locally and that what works in Manhattan may not be appropriate for Memphis.
While most will rightly focus on the Court’s narrow statutory interpretation approach in the per curiam decision, ALEC is particularly encouraged by Justice Gorsuch’s concurring opinion, joined by Justices Thomas and Alito, where he clearly laid out the role states play in responding to public health emergencies.
In responding to a public health crisis, the primary question courts must address when faced with a challenge to an emergency order is “who decides?” Federal, state and local governments have unique roles. But as Justice Gorsuch noted in his concurring opinion the larger question is:
“…whether an administrative agency in Washington, one charged with overseeing workplace safety, may mandate the vaccination or regular testing of 84 million people. Or whether, as 27 States before us submit, that work belongs to state and local governments across the country and the people’s elected representatives in Congress.”
The states possess considerable authority to regulate public health and safety. Applying the appropriate legal term, state legislatures exercise “police power,” which is the broadest possible type of authority a government can possess. By contrast, the Federal Government’s authorities are “not general but limited and divided… Not only must the Federal Government properly invoke a constitutionally enumerated source of authority to regulate in this area or any other[,] it must also act consistently with the Constitution’s separation of powers.”
The Supreme Court rightly determined that OSHA’s enabling legislation did not authorize the private employer mandate. By noting that workplace safety standards are not the same as public health measures and blocking enforcement of the mandate, the Supreme Court preserved the role of states helping to respond to COVID-19.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is a striking win for federalism. As we at ALEC believe, individual states and local authorities are often best suited to look after their communities and the workplace,” said Lisa Nelson, CEO of ALEC.


The American Legislative Exchange Council is the largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators in the United States. The Council is governed by state legislators who comprise the Board of Directors and is advised by the Private Enterprise Advisory Council, a group of private, foundation and think tank members. For more information about the American Legislative Exchange Council, please visit: