Hutchinson: Arkansas Employers Should Wait for SCOTUS Decision on Worker Vaccine Mandate


Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in an appearance Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that businesses in Arkansas shouldn't comply with President Joe Biden's "oppressive" workplace vaccine mandate, which took effect today.

The Republican governor said businesses should wait until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling on the matter, but added that he supports businesses that choose to follow the mandate.

"Our employers in Arkansas, some make the decision that they ought to have a vaccine requirement in the workplace, and I support their ability to make that decision," he told CNN's Jake Tapper. "There shouldn't be a ban against that. But others make the decision that that's not necessary. Maybe they work in a more open environment or they have the risk of losing too many employees. And so they have that freedom. But this mandate of (the Occupational Health and Safety Administration), the federal government, needs to be struck down and that's why we're fighting against it."

More: Watch the clip here

Arkansas and other Republican-led states sued over the mandate, which requires businesses with 100 or more employees to require their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly for the virus. 

A federal judge temporarily blocked the mandate before a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Dec. 20 reversed the decision, allowing the mandate to move ahead. 

The Supreme Court on Friday heard oral arguments on the mandate. It also heard arguments on a separate mandate for health workers.

The cases are being heard on an emergency basis, meaning a decision could come much earlier than other cases, possibly in weeks or days. 

Although the rule took effect today, OSHA has said it won't impose penalties until February to "provide employers with sufficient time to come into compliance." Employers face fines up to $13,653 per violation. 

More: Read the OSHA rules here.

The omicron variant has driven a surge in COVID-19 cases in Arkansas, where less than 52% of the population is fully vaccinated. The state last week logged four straight days of record-setting new cases. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.