Federal Employees Who Refuse COVID Testing Could Face Discipline

Federal employees who refuse COVID testing under recently issued policies could be subject to disciplinary action.

Unvaccinated federal employees who refuse to get regular COVID tests could face disciplinary action according to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

An OMB official told Politico that the new COVID policies announced by President Biden last week are considered workplace policy, “meaning that unvaccinated workers who violate any of those public health measures could be punished under the ‘progressive discipline’ standards at their agency,” according to Politico.

According to the Office of Personnel Management, “progressive discipline” is defined as the “imposition of the least serious disciplinary or adverse action applicable to correct the issue or misconduct with penalties imposed at an escalating level for subsequent offenses.”

Politico’s report also notes that agencies will be given leeway in terms of what disciplinary actions to impose but that they can range from “formal admonishment” all the way up to removal per federal statute.

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force recently issued guidance in accordance with the president’s announcement on the new COVID requirements for federal workers. “Federal agencies need to ask about the vaccination status of Federal employees and onsite contractors—employees and onsite contractors must sign an attestation confirming their vaccination status, or they will be treated as not fully vaccinated for purposes of safety protocols,” according to the guidance. It noted that agencies must comply with any applicable federal laws, privacy regulations, and bargaining obligations when requesting the vaccine statuses of federal employees.

Federal employee unions have already issued statements in response to the new policy, and it is widely expected that there will be at least some legal challenges that arise.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.