Companies preparing for vaccine mandate

Jan. 7—TUPELO — The Supreme Court will hear arguments today on two separate cases by challengers to the Biden administration's vaccine mandate.

The vaccine and testing mandates require businesses with more than 100 employees to either get fully vaccinated or provide negative COVID-19 test results weekly. According to the administration, the mandate will cover some 84 million workers.

But business and religious groups, along with some GOP-led states, are challenging the mandate, arguing that the mandate is an overstep in authority.

At the 300-worker Affordable Furniture plant in Houlka, CEO Jim Sneed said he's waiting to see what the court decides. He, and many others, are banking on the court's 6-3 conservative majority to put a stay on the mandate.

"It's going to be a difficult thing to control, let alone enforce," Sneed said.

The mandate would have the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration oversee implementation and enforcement of the mandate. Enforcement would be accomplished through complaints, warnings and escalating fines.

Several large companies have already imposed vaccine mandates ahead of the federal proposal, including Walmart, McDonald's, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Google, TJX Walgreens, Ford and CVSHealth.

Tupelo-based Renasant Bank has some 2,500 employees in seven Southeastern states.

"We're waiting for the final Supreme Court determination on the regulation, but in the event it becomes enforced, we will be prepared to comply on Jan. 10 and will see the imposed OSHA emergency temporary standards for companies with more than 100 employees," said John Oxford, Renasant's senior vice president and director of marketing.

Several companies contacted by the Daily Journal declined to comment on the mandate.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses is a party in one case before the court, challenging OSHA's authority. The NFIB argues that OSHA did not use its typical notice-and-comment procedure to gather public input before imposing a mandate, and the group also argues that a nationwide COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate is a decision for Congress and is outside the scope of a federal agency.

OSHA also says the the mandate "will severely injure small businesses by creating unrecoverable compliance costs, lost profits, and lost sales, while further exacerbating the labor shortage for small businesses."

OSHA said it will not issue citations for noncompliance with its testing requirements before Feb. 9.