Fedweek

Several issues related to the administration’s vaccine mandate for federal employees still have not been spelled out in detail, including possible disciplinary actions against employees who do not comply.

Guidance issued Monday by the Safer Federal Workplace Task Force does not address for example whether those employees will be subject to discipline immediately after the newly announced November 22 deadline.

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White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki has said that employees who do not comply will “face progressive disciplinary action” up to and including firing. Her reference to progressive action suggests that employees would not face removal immediately, but rather possible steps such as counseling and short suspensions first.

The administration also had raised the threat of firing regarding the largest previous vaccination mandate for federal workers, at the VA’s Veterans Health Administration. The deadline is next week for the first set of employees covered by that mandate, more than 100,000 employees involved in daily patient care; a second deadline arrives in three weeks for most of the rest of VHA employees.

Also still unaddressed is the standards agencies are to use in the allowable exceptions for medical or religious reasons, and what type of accommodation employees who qualify for one would receive. The latest guidance speaks only of “limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled” to an exception and a “reasonable accommodation.”

The latest guidance also says that agencies “will need to collect proof of employee vaccination status in order to ensure compliance.” That suggests that they will have to show vaccination cards although it doesn’t say so specifically. Where employees have been vaccinated onsite, agencies already have those records.

Under the prior “attestation” policy, employees did not have to show proof unless the agency had reason to believe that they had falsely stated that they were vaccinated.

In an online posting Monday, the task force said that more guidance is coming soon.

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