Guidance on Implementing the Federal Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Has Been Published

The White House-led Safer Federal Workforce Task Force on Sept. 17, 2021, published detailed guidance on implementing E.O. 14043, “Requiring Coronavirus Disease Vaccination 2019 for Federal Employees.” vaccination article

The guidance explains how U.S. government agencies and the United States Postal Service should work to ensure their employees comply with the Nov. 22, 2021, deadline for workers covered by the executive order to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Importantly, the effective deadline for complying is November 8th because, as the guidance notes, “Employees will be considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 2 weeks after they have received the requisite number of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

Topics covered by the guidance include

  • Ensuring employees provide proof of full vaccination even if they already attested to being vaccinated;
  • Requiring proof of full vaccination from new hires who start after November 22nd;
  • Ensuring fully remote employees receive vaccinations;
  • Protecting the privacy of employees’ health information;
  • Educating and disciplining “up to and including removal from Federal service” employees who fail to comply;
  • Dealing with contractors and visitors in U.S. government workplaces; and
  • Discussing vaccination plans with employee unions and the agency’s general counsel.

Regarding exemptions, the guidance emphasizes that each request must be considered individually and that more information on this topic will be made available. Specifically, the guidance states

[A]n 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.

 

Available federal guidance presently covers only employees of the U.S. government. President Joe Biden has ordered the U.S. Department of Labor to make rules for larger employers in the private sector to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees. The job of writing those rules has been given to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA guidance on vaccine requirements for employers with more than 100 workers is being drafted. State and local agencies in jurisdictions subject to OSHA regulations will need to comply with the rules once they come into effect.

Current OSHA recommendations for mitigating and preventing workplace spread of COVID-19 can be found here.

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