Federal agencies are planning to take more severe steps against employees who have not been vaccinated to comply with President Biden’s COVID-19 mandate.
Some agencies will send warning letters to employees about possible suspensions if they don’t comply with the mandate. Many agencies are prepared to fire employees who do not follow the rule, but this would be further down.
Federal agencies report high compliance rates and say that they don’t expect suspensions or firings will cause disruptions.
In November, the White House instructed agencies to delay imposing harsher penalties until the new year. Instead, it directed them to concentrate on education and counseling for anyone who had not followed the mandate. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), however, has declared that agencies are free to take more severe measures as they see fit.
“Agencies continue to move forward with the process, including taking progressive disciplinary measures as necessary,” an OMB spokesperson said in an interview.
Federal workers are required to comply with the COVID-19 vaccination mandate. This is a key component of Biden’s coronavirus response. Federal workers had to comply by Nov. 24, after which 92 percent of the federal government’s 3.5 million employees had received at least one COVID-19 vaccination.
The current federal government wide compliance rate with the mandate is not clear because some agencies didn’t provide up-to-date data when The Hill reached them. However, several agencies reported that they had made progress since the November deadline by counseling employees who hadn’t received their shots.
In the next few weeks, the departments of Treasury, Transportation, Agriculture, as well as General Services Administration, Social Security Administration and Nuclear Regulatory Commission, will all be suspending employees who do not comply with the mandate.
Although the timeframes for notification of employees about suspensions have not been set by the agencies, experts believe they will be fairly quick considering that the rule was announced by Biden four months ago.
The federal government has a large workforce. Its vaccine policy affects the majority of its 3.5million workers. Experts in health consider the federal mandate powerful, particularly considering that Biden’s other mandates for vaccines for large businesses and workers in the health care sector are being contested in court.
Last week, the Supreme Court’s conservative members appeared skeptical about Biden’s COVID-19 mandate for private-sector businesses with 100 employees or more. They also questioned whether the administration had the legal authority to implement the policy.
“It’s very important because the federal workforce is huge and it extends across the country and not just in Washington, D.C. It also I think sets the tone for cities and states to do it for their own public service workers and ultimately to encourage private sector companies to do it,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health law professor at Georgetown University.