OSHA Head on Vaccines: ‘We Didn’t Demand That Anyone Be Fired’


A top federal official who oversees the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) responded to criticisms about a highly controversial COVID-19 vaccine rule that the federal government issued in late 2021 and insisted that his agency didn’t pressure private companies after the Supreme Court rejected the mandate.

House Republicans during a Sept. 27 hearing criticized the agency for the emergency rule that was announced by President Joe Biden in late 2021, saying that tens of millions of private-sector workers would have been impacted. Ultimately, in early 2022, the Supreme Court blocked the administration from enforcing the mandate.

The federal vaccine mandate, announced in the fall of 2021, had applied to all private-sector firms with 100 or more employees, including both part-time and full-time staff. There were estimates at the time that 84 million people—or two-thirds of the private-sector workforce—would be impacted.

Workers who would remain unvaccinated by a certain time period would have to provide a negative COVID-19 test to their employer every week in order to work in person. At the time, the White House described the rule as a “vaccination requirement” and said that unvaccinated workers would be forced to “wear a face mask while in the workplace.”
When pressed about whether OSHA continued to pressure workplaces after the rule was effectively ended by the Supreme Court, OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Douglas Parker said that such suggestions were “untrue.” Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) had accused his agency of ignoring the order and pressuring firms “to fire American workers.”

“That’s categorically untrue. We didn’t threaten anyone, and we didn’t demand that anyone be fired. … Congresswoman, I believe that the American people expect their government to take on the big problems that are facing them,” Mr. Parker responded.

“More than a million people died from COVID [in the United States].”

“Mr. Parker, you’re one of a number of officials in this administration who has come before this committee and tell us now that two plus two doesn’t equal four. … has there been some sort of memo going around? Why is the administration insistent on rewriting history?” Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-Calif.) asked.

Mrs. Miller then said that she would introduce amendments to “strip” OSHA of its “power and funding to protect the 84 million Americans who do not want to show you their vaccine papers … they have gone far beyond their minor, limited mission.”