In response to a court decision issued last week which placed an injunction on President Biden’s federal employee vaccine mandate, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has clarified that the government will not attempt to enforce the vaccine mandate while the court’s injunction is in effect.
Prior to the injunction, federal agencies were expected to soon begin issuing harsher penalties for any federal employees who were not in compliance with the mandate. The harsher penalties had been delayed until after the start of the new year.
The Task Force noted, however, that its guidance on other COVID safety protocols remains in effect. These protocols are based primarily on a federal employee’s vaccination status and include guidelines related to masking, distancing, travel, testing, and quarantine.
The Task Force stated:
To ensure compliance with an applicable preliminary nationwide injunction, which may be supplemented, modified, or vacated, depending on the course of ongoing litigation, the Federal Government will take no action to implement or enforce the COVID-19 vaccination requirement pursuant to Executive Order 14043 on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees. Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance on other Federal agency safety protocols based on vaccination status—including guidance on protocols related to masking, distancing, travel, testing, and quarantine—remains in effect.
Additionally, the Task Force updated another of its frequently asked questions regarding pending or approved exceptions to the vaccine mandate in which it notes that federal employees who are not vaccinated must follow additional safety protocols:
Q: If a Federal employee is not fully vaccinated due to a pending or approved request for an exception or extension to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for Federal employees, what workplace safety protocols should that individual follow?
A: Generally, Federal employees who are not fully vaccinated because they have a pending or approved request for an exception or extension to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for Federal employees should follow applicable masking, physical distancing, and testing protocols, as well as applicable travel guidance. There may be circumstances in which an agency determines that the nature of an employee’s job responsibilities requires heightened safety protocols if they are provided with a legally required exception or extension. In some cases, the nature of the employee’s job may be such that an agency determines that no safety protocol other than vaccination is adequate. In such circumstances, the agency may deny the requested accommodation.
The Task Force website still states that agencies must require documentation from federal employees to prove their vaccination status.
Additionally, the Task Force says that agencies are required to collect certain information on their employees necessary to verify their vaccination statuses and that each agency “may develop their own processes to both collect and maintain the required information.” Some agencies have begun establishing databases to track data related to exemption requests for their employees.
The Task Force still notes on its website that agencies must develop testing programs for unvaccinated federal employees by February 15. According to this guidance, federal employees who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID will be subject to COVID tests on at least a weekly basis when working onsite.
About the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force
According to its website:
The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force is led by the White House COVID-19 Response Team, the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Task Force members include: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Protective Service (FPS), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the United States Secret Service (USSS).