According to Biden administration guidelines released this week, federal workers may be dismissed for refusing to get vaccinated against the COVID-19. Still, while their disciplinary cases make their way through the system, they will report to work alongside vaccinated colleagues.
New Guidance on Vaccine Mandate
In a recently published article in The Washington Post, the new guidance to execute a vaccination requirement for the government, revealed by Biden last week, is a reversal of the approach advocated by the White House coronavirus task group in August for those workers without vaccinations who refused to undergo regular COVID-19 testing under an earlier plan.
Then agencies were informed they may put workers on administrative leave, a paid suspension often used for short-term absences but can also be used when management recommends dismissing an employee. According to Jeff Friday, general counsel for the National Federation of Federal Employees, which has approximately 100,000 members working for the Defense Department, the United States Forest Service, and other agencies, the federal government seems to have taken a tougher stance.
The regulations for enforcing the requirement were among many new elements of what will be a complicated, possibly contentious process that will likely go well into the winter, if not longer, due to the federal government's vast size and presence in every state. Multiple groups of individuals will be following various regulations in the same workplace as a result of the details, according to a published article in Gov Exec.
Policy Before Entering a Federal Building
Contractors, government employees, and visitors who have been vaccinated must wear masks inside federal facilities in regions where virus transmission is high or significant, but not in areas where transmission is minimal or has a low positivity rate.
Visitors must verify their status before entering a government facility, except for those seeking assistance. Visitors who have not been vaccinated or refuse to disclose their status must additionally provide evidence of a negative test conducted three days or less before entering the facility, according to a report published in CNBC.
Furthermore, to fulfill a November 22 deadline to be completely vaccinated, most of the 2.1 million government workers must get their last vaccination dosage no later than November 8. Depending on the vaccination they get, the time between the first and second injections will vary.
Other Employees and Newly Hired Personnel
According to the new regulations, teleworking workers must also receive vaccinations, and they may send evidence of immunization electronically. Those who are not completely vaccinated or refuse to inform their employers about their status must wear masks in the workplace, keep a safe distance from coworkers, and adhere to work travel limitations.
The guidance states that new employees who start work after November 22 must be fully vaccinated, save in "limited situations" when the government must make a reasonable adjustment to exclude them. Exceptions may be granted for "urgent, mission-critical" recruits, but they must be vaccinated within 60 days of their start date.
The task group said it is working on further guidelines on how agencies should handle requests for religious and medical exemptions to the vaccination, a part of the requirement that has sparked fears that the offices would adopt widely disparate standards.