While some may have assumed the COVID-19 pandemic was on the downturn heading into 2021, the emergence of the Delta variant quickly put those thoughts to rest for many. As it has become increasingly obvious that the pandemic is still very much a threat, workplaces across the United States have been implementing vaccination mandates for employees - federal agencies among them.
Understanding details such as what agencies have mask and vaccine mandates in place, as well as penalties for falsely claiming to have received the vaccine, can help federal employees navigate their workplaces going forward.
At John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, our team is here to help you find the best path forward in your employment law dispute. To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (202) 759-7780.
What Is the Current Vaccination Protocol for Federal Employees?
Recently, the Biden Administration implemented measures demanding that federal employees either be vaccinated for COVID-19 or subject themselves to consistent testing and stricter safety measures in the workplace.
As part of this policy, federal agencies have started to distribute "Certification of Vaccination" forms to employees. Employees are not required to fill out the forms, but if they choose not to, they will not be treated as vaccinated employees.
Employees have four options they can check when filling out the form:
- "I am fully vaccinated;"
- "I am not yet fully vaccinated" (meaning the employee is in the process of being vaccinated by has not yet received two doses of a two-dose vaccine);
- "I have not been vaccinated" (meaning the employee has not made an appointment to get vaccinated or is not in the process);
- "I decline to respond."
Employees who choose not to receive vaccinations or decline to respond will not be treated as fully vaccinated. As a result, they will need to take more COVID-19 tests and adhere to stricter safety measures in the workplace.
Additionally, the White House clarified earlier this week that local mask mandates and other such safety measures do apply to federal workplaces. In other words, even if your agency nationwide doesn't have a mask mandate in place, you must still wear a mask to work if your local community requires it.
What Happens if an Employee Lies About Their Vaccination Status?
Falsely claiming to be vaccinated on federal forms could result in disciplinary measures from supervisors or other individuals.
An agency may choose to ban an employee who lies about their vaccinated status from federal workplaces. If a banned employee cannot complete their work, they will be placed on administrative leave.
Importantly, if an employee does not lie about their vaccination status but cites a disability or religion as their reason for being unvaccinated, the agency must consider what accommodations can be provided to that employee.
What's the Testing Protocol Like?
The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force recently clarified a number of details about how federal workplaces will test employees moving forward.
Any FDA-approved COVID-19 test may be used to test federal employees for COVID-19. Agencies must pay for the tests, and the time it takes to test employees will be counted as duty time.
Importantly, federal agencies cannot require an employee to work from home solely due to their status as an unvaccinated individual. Testing restrictions may also not apply to employees who are teleworking.
Employees will be tested at least once a week, but may be tested more frequently if the agency determines that doing so is in the best interests of employees and the agency. Employees are encouraged to speak with their unions about collective bargaining opportunities. If an employee comes into contact with a federal employee who tests positive in the workplace, they may take a test in the workplace. If a federal employee comes into contact with someone who has the coronavirus outside the workplace, they should abide by normal COVID-19 protocols and avoid entering a federal worksite until they test negative.
As the Delta Variant of COVID-19 continues to surge, it will be interesting to see how the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force modifies their current testing requirements and recommendations.
At John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, we'll do everything in our power to help you find the best path forward in your federal work dispute. To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (202) 759-7780.