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Federal Worker Vaccine Order Gets More White House Guidance (1)

Sept. 16, 2021, 9:23 PMUpdated: Sept. 16, 2021, 10:01 PM

Federal employees must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22 or face progressive discipline that can include termination, according to new guidance from the White House on how agencies must implement the president’s Covid-19 inoculation requirement.

President Joe Biden in a Sept. 9 executive order mandated all federal employees must receive a vaccine. It was one of several directives issued that day to encourage U.S. workers to get inoculated and address the slowing of nationwide vaccination rates.

Additional guidance from the White House’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force on Thursday outlined enforcement of the vaccine requirement, documentation, and “limited exceptions” to the mandate. It said agencies may need to grant reasonable accommodations to workers who cannot receive a vaccine “because of a disability or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.” The agencies were encouraged to contact their general counsels with questions, and the guidance said further information on legally required exemptions “will be forthcoming.”

Furthermore, agencies should discuss vaccination plans with their respective unions “at their earliest opportunity,” the task force said.

“Accordingly, bargaining over this Government-wide policy will be limited to impact and implementation issues not otherwise addressed in the guidance,” it said. “Moreover, agencies must implement Government-wide policy by the deadline, so any bargaining that has not been completed by the time implementation must begin will have to be finished post-implementation.”

The task force also advised that agencies need to ask about the vaccination status of employees for onsite contractors. “If an onsite contractor employee chooses not to provide a response, they will be treated as not fully vaccinated for the purpose of agency safety protocols,” the guidance said.

Certain federal contractor employees, including those who don’t work on government sites, are subject to a separate executive order on Covid-19 safety that is expected to receive more task force guidance by Sept. 24. That contractor guidance is expected to include a vaccine mandate.

(Updated to reflect additional reporting.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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