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GE halts COVID vaccine-or-test mandate for employees after Supreme Court decision

The GE headquarters on Necco Street in Boston.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to block President Biden’s vaccine-or-testing rule for large companies, General Electric said it would suspend the implementation of the mandate for its employees.

The Boston-based maker of jet engines, wind turbines, and medical scanners confirmed the decision Friday via e-mail. GE is the first major company to announce a halt after the court’s decision to block the centerpiece of Biden’s push to boost COVID-19 vaccinations.

GE holds a number of government contracts, so its 56,000 employees in the US originally fell under a separate vaccination mandate for federal contractors. The company paused that requirement in December — after a federal judge temporarily blocked the rule from going into effect — and then planned to comply with the vaccine-or-testing mandate for private employers.

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The federal mandate would have applied to all private employers with more than 100 employees, covering some 84 million workers in the United States.

The White House unveiled the mandate in September as part of a sweeping effort to increase vaccination rates across the country. Instead, the employer rule was marred by a myriad of legal challenges and eventually struck down by the highest court.

Some companies have long required that their workers be vaccinated against COVID-19. But others, including Fidelity Investments in Boston, have held off. Framingham-based TJX Companies requires its office-based employees to be fully vaccinated and boosted, but the mandate does not extend to the thousands of people who work in the retail stores or distribution centers of Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, and HomeGoods.

A spokesperson for TJX said Friday that the Supreme Court’s decision does not affect the company’s vaccine mandate for office workers. TJX is “reviewing what it means for our store and distribution center Associates and for our business,” they wrote.

GE employees could still be required to be vaccinated under the rule that applies to federal contractors, which is in legal limbo. The Biden administration has said it would not enforce the federal contractor mandate until the court challenges are resolved.

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When GE was planning to roll out the vaccination policy, it ran into early stumbles with the employee union in Lynn, which has about 1,200 members.

Justin Richards, a business agent for IUE-CWA Local 201, said at the time that employees felt that they didn’t have enough time to collectively bargain over the consequences of the mandate. It wasn’t clear what would happen if they failed to meet the deadline, and being terminated, laid off, or furloughed have different impacts on the status of health care benefits or severance packages, he said.

A spokesperson for the Lynn union did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Material from Bloomberg was used in this report.


Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.