The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has released the highly anticipated guidance on the new vaccine mandate for federal employees as directed in President Biden’s recent executive order.
The executive order stated that the Task Force had to post updated guidance within 7 days of the date of the executive order.
Here are some of the highlights from the new guidance on mandatory vaccinations.
Vaccination Deadline for Federal Employees
Federal employees as defined in 5 U.S.C. 2105 (including an employee paid from nonappropriated funds as referenced in 5 U.S.C. 2105(c)) must be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021. They must receive their last dose no later than November 8, 2021 to meet this deadline.
Federal employees who start their government service after November 22, 2021 need to be fully vaccinated prior to their start date, except in limited circumstances where a reasonable accommodation is legally required.
Vaccine Mandate for Federal Employees Not Reporting to the Worksite
Previously, federal employees could avoid getting vaccinated by working remotely or teleworking. However, under the president’s new vaccination requirement, COVID vaccinations are mandatory for all applicable federal employees, even ones who are not reporting to their worksites. The Task Force states:
To protect the health and safety of the Federal workforce and to promote the efficiency of the civil service, all Federal employees covered by Executive Order 14043 and without a legally required exception need to be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021, regardless of where they are working. Employees who are on maximum telework or working remotely are not excused from this requirement, including because employees working offsite may interact with the public as part of their duties and agencies may need to recall employees who are on maximum telework or working remotely.
Federal agencies must now require documentation from employees to prove their vaccination status, even if an employee has previously attested to their vaccination status. Agencies are instructed to only disseminate information to the appropriate agency officials who have a need to know an employee’s vaccination status to ensure effective implementation of the safety protocols.
Enforcement of Vaccine Mandate
Federal employees who continually refuse to get the COVID vaccine or provide valid proof of vaccination will be subject to disciplinary measures up to and including removal from federal service.
In pursuing any adverse action, the agency must provide the required procedural rights to an employee and follow normal processes, including any agency policies or collective bargaining agreement requirements concerning disciplinary matters.
Federal employees should not be placed on administrative leave while pursuing an adverse action for refusal to be vaccinated, but will be required to follow safety protocols for employees who are not fully vaccinated when reporting to agency worksites.
Exceptions to Vaccine Mandate
According to the Task Force, there are very few exceptions that federal employees can pursue to avoid getting vaccinated. The Task Force states:
Q: Are there exceptions to the requirement for all employees to be fully vaccinated?
A: Federal employees must be fully vaccinated other than in limited circumstances where the law requires an exception. In particular, an agency may be required to provide a reasonable accommodation to employees who communicate to the agency that they are not vaccinated against COVID-19 because of a disability or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. Determining whether an exception is legally required will include consideration of factors such as the basis for the claim; the nature of the employee’s job responsibilities; and the reasonably foreseeable effects on the agency’s operations, including protecting other agency employees and the public from COVID-19. Because such assessments will be fact- and context-dependent, agencies are encouraged to consult their offices of general counsel with questions related to assessing and implementing any such requested accommodations. Additional guidance on legally required exceptions will be forthcoming.
For a more in depth discussion of options available to federal employees who do not want the vaccine, see Must Federal Employees Follow President Biden’s Vaccine Mandate?.