Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor compared human beings to machines when commenting in favor of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for businesses with 100-plus employees on Friday.
“Why is a human being not like a machine if it’s spewing a virus, blood-borne viruses?” Sotomayor asked Scott Keller, the attorney for National Federation of Independent Business, during an expedited Supreme Court hearing regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) coronavirus vaccine mandate.
Sotomayor, who is known as a strident liberal, made the query during an exchange with Keller about whether OSHA requiring businesses to mandate mask wearing as a preventative coronavirus measure is different than OSHA mandating mask wearing when “sparks are flying in the work place.” Keller answered that those machines are presumably “unique to that workplace” before Sotomayor interjected her remark comparing people to machines.
The justice also said the OSHA mandate is not a vaccine mandate because of the masking and testing option.
“There’s no mandate here for a vaccine — there’s a masking mandate. [It is] no different than [it is] when we tell people that if there are sparks flying in the workplace where workers have to wear a mask, that’s no different in my mind than this,” she said. “So this is not a vaccine mandate. There are costs and deaths and other things countervailing to the fact that there might be 1 to 3 percent of workers who leave.”
The Supreme Court in late December announced it would hear oral arguments on January 7 in appeals against both OSHA’s vaccine mandate and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) coronavirus vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.
Out of Biden’s five federal coronavirus vaccine mandates, the mandate for large businesses, issued by OSHA, is the largest and impacts 84 million workers.
The application is NFIB v. OSHA, No. 21A244 in the Supreme Court of the United States.