SEATTLE — With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to rule soon on a vaccine mandate issued by the Biden Administration aimed at employers of a certain size, business groups in Western Washington on Monday were anxious to hear the ruling.
The justices are weighing whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the legal authority to enforce the rule, that if approved would require employers with 100 or more workers to force their employees to get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.
Renée Sunde, president and CEO of the Washington Retail Association, said she believes a decision could be handed down Thursday.
The group is telling its members to be ready now as the court prepares to act.
“Our recommendation is that retails don’t hold off on adhering to the requirement," Sunde said. "They'll make individual decisions on when they implement those policies, but just be ready.”
Seattle's Portage Bay Café is one of those businesses, with 125 workers on the payroll.
The restaurant implemented its own vaccine mandate in November, asking employees to either get vaccinated or tested. They lost one employee who refused to do either.
Sunde said employees at other businesses could see similar actions.
“This is just another potential impact on our workforce," Sunde said. "And we have great concerns moving forward."
Many companies are waiting for guidance from the high court before acting even as opponents insist OSHA doesn't have the legal authority to enforce a mandate.
Some business owners said they think it should be left to them to decide how they run their company.
“Everyone is watching the Supreme Court and waiting for that ultimate decision,” Sunde said.
According to the WRA, there are 385,000 employees who work in retail across the state but it is not clear how many of them work for businesses with 100 employees or more and which businesses have vaccine mandate policies already in place.
WRA is encouraging retailers to have a plan now and no later than Monday. If the Biden mandate is upheld, businesses who don't comply on time could face fines.
WRA has published a guide to provide assistance to large businesses that will be subject to the mandate if it is upheld by the court. retailers.
For Portage Bay co-owners Amy Fair Gunnar and her husband, they see the mandate as a necessary tool in order to end the pandemic.
“The restaurant industry has been hit so hard," Gunnar said. "It's not just our survival. It's the survival of everyone's corner restaurant -- big and small."
She said her company's policy mandate has paid off in the short term, too.
Since all of her employees are all vaccinated, it has made a difference in workers being available for work.
"The more people vaccinate the faster we can all get through this," Gunnar said. "It’s been nearly two years (and we're), ready for it to be over with."
Several of the region's larger employers are approaching the issue differently, including: