In an order issued on December 13, the United States Supreme Court declined to accept an appeal of the Second Circuit’s decision, which had refused to enforce the religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate. As our readers will recall, several weeks ago, the Second Circuit had declined to issue an injunction that would have expressly directed covered healthcare providers to consider and grant religious exemptions to eligible healthcare workers. As a result of that Second Circuit decision, and upon urging by various stakeholders, the Department of Health issued guidance allowing all healthcare workers who had been previously received religious exemptions to become vaccinated by November 22 in order to keep their employment. In the meantime, the opponents of the vaccine mandate had filed an appeal of the Second Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court. In yesterday’s order, the Supreme Court declined to take up the issue for review.
The underlying lawsuits regarding the religious exemption question, as created by the Department’s regulation, will continue in New York courts, and may even make their way to the United States Supreme Court at some point in time. For the time being, however, covered healthcare providers must ensure that any patient-facing, or even potentially patient-facing, healthcare staff are vaccinated or that they receive a medical exemption.
If you have any questions about the definition of covered employees, please do not hesitate to reach out.