SCOTUS decision on vaccine mandates could impact New Mexico workforce

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing in on a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that would impact about 80 million workers.

This federal rule is still set to go into effect this week – it would require large businesses to have all employees vaccinated or tested weekly. Now the justices will decide if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the authority to do that.

Some business leaders in New Mexico are worried about the possible mandate.

"It’s going to be very costly if that is the decision," said Carla Sonntag, the CEO of the New Mexico Business Coalition.

Sonntag also said it would hurt businesses that are already struggling to get employees.

"So when you are already stretch thin on your full employment – to have the possibility of losing employees because they are mandated to receive the vaccination or to put them through that drill of getting tested frequently, it puts further strains on the employer and employee who are just trying to feed their families," Sonntag said.

However, legal expert Josh Kastenberg said if the Supreme Court does uphold the mandate, those workers will still be given a choice.

"No one is being forced to take a vaccine, but what a large corporation would have to end up facing is a choice to either lay off workers who decide that they will not get vaccinated or tell workers, ‘hey, if you want to work here, you have to have your vaccines up to date," Kasternberg said.

The court heard oral arguments Friday morning for about four hours. Kasternberg said it’s difficult to predict the outcome.

This isn’t the only mandate the Supreme Court is looking at. There is a similar health care vaccine mandate that could apply to about 20 million health care workers – which the court seems more open to.