Bill Would Reinstate Federal Employees Who Were Fired or Resigned Due to Vaccine Mandate

A new bill would provide compensation or possible reinstatement for federal employees who resigned or were fired after refusing the COVID vaccine mandate.

Beginning of the Federal Employee Vaccine Mandate

Back in 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order instituting a COVID vaccine mandate for federal employees. According to White House Press Secretary, federal employees had 75 days to get vaccinated. If an employee was not been vaccinated and did not fall within the narrow exclusions, the employee could be fired.

According to the White House, the mandatory vaccination program was a model for what the Biden administration had decided that other businesses and organizations should do in response to COVID.

The program proved very unpopular. Presumably, the administration did not anticipate the amount of resistance the president’s Executive Order would generate. The aftermath of the Executive Order resulted in numerous court decisions, proposed legislation to overturn the mandate, and considerable political fallout for the White House.

“Education” Program for Federal Employees Was Successful in Securing Compliance

Federal employees who had not been vaccinated were, according to guidelines from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force), going to be educated for a “brief” five-day period as to why the vaccinations are good for them.

No doubt, this possibility may have scared some federal workers into getting vaccinated even before having to undergo lengthy training on why their conclusions about the COVID vaccine were wrong. In other words, the training would aid in participants getting their “mind right” to comply with the mandate. Reportedly, about 98% of federal employees were vaccinated and a few qualified for the restrictive exemptions.

For readers who may be movie fans, the directive may have recalled a scene from “Cool Hand Luke”—a 1960’s movie starring Paul Newman. In that movie, Paul Newman is advised, after suffering a severe beating:

“You run one time, you got yourself a set of chains. You run twice, you got yourself two sets. You ain’t gonna need no third set ’cause you’re gonna get your mind right. And I mean RIGHT.”

This approach was successful. A Department of Transportation representative was quoted at the time as noting the agency “saw more compliance following education and counseling steps completed in December and next steps of the enforcement process will involve letters warning of brief suspensions for those few still not in compliance.”

Bill To Reinstate and Pay Federal Employees Impacted by Vaccine Mandate

A new bill that has been introduced in the House will interest some former federal employees. No data is apparently available on how many employees resigned in lieu of getting vaccinated. Very few federal employees were fired; others presumably left instead of accepting the mandatory vaccination requirement.

For those who may have been impacted, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has introduced the COVID–19 Federal Employee Reinstatement Act (H.R. 1080). The bill would “provide for the reinstatement or compensation of Federal employees forced to resign their careers between September 9, 2021, and January 24, 2022, because of the Federal COVID–19 vaccination mandate….”

Gaetz represents Florida’s 1st Congressional District. This district encompasses the very large area of Eglin Air Force Base.

In January, the Department of Defense dropped the mandatory vaccination requirement for military personnel.

Vaccine Mandates Have No Place in a Free Country

In a press release, the Congressman Gaetz wrote:

Forcing public servants to choose between destroying their livelihood or complying with immoral demands from the federal government is sickening. The Biden administration should have never forced federal employees to resign due to the vaccine mandate. Reinstating and compensating these individuals is the first step toward reconciliation. Vaccine mandates have no place in a free country.

Options Available to Former Federal Employees Who Resigned or Were Fired

If this bill were to pass, it would have considerable value to former federal employees who were impacted by the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.

Under the bill, each impacted federal employee could receive a payment equal to the amount the employee would have been paid by the former employing agency during the period beginning on September 9, 2021.

Another form of compensation for those impacted by the mandate would be an appointment to a position in the employee’s former employing agency that is the same or similar to the previous federal position held. In addition, the employee would receive payment equal to the amount that would have been paid by the agency during the period beginning on September 9, 2021.

Employees who left their federal jobs and were subsequently hired by a federal agency would be eligible for a prorated payment. 

If the head of the employing agency determines that a reinstatement is impracticable, the employee would be entitled to a payment option outlined in the bill.

Statement by Employee to OPM Required

Under the bill, a person who may qualify for relief would have to submit a written statement to the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and to the head of the former employing agency.

The statement would have to indicate the employee was voluntarily or involuntarily separated from service in an Executive agency during the period beginning on September 9, 2021, and ending on January 24, 2022, based on the federal employee vaccine mandate implemented at the agency as a result of President Biden’s executive order.

Possibility of New Bill Becoming Law

Most bills proposed in Congress never become law.

There are currently not any co-sponsors for the COVID–19 Federal Employee Reinstatement Act. While federal employees who rebelled over being required to take a vaccination against their better judgment would undoubtedly like to see the bill become law, and these impacted employees would probably see the bill as treating them fairly, passage of the bill is unlikely.

The bill could pass in the House. It is unlikely it would gather enough votes in the Senate to pass. The bill is a direct rebuke of the president’s Executive Order designed to create a model program for America in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Political considerations are paramount in most legislation. This bill is therefore unlikely to be passed in the House.

In the unlikely event it does pass in both Congressional chambers, President Biden would also have to sign the bill for it to become law. That is very unlikely.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47