GovExec: “Refusal to comply with the president’s vaccine mandate will be treated as violating “a lawful order,” according to guidance from the White House Safer Federal Workforce. The Biden administration on Friday issued guidance to agencies outlining the process for disciplining and, if necessary, firing federal employees who refuse to comply with President Biden’s requirement that all federal workers are vaccinated against COVID-19, urging “consistency” across the federal government in its enforcement of the rule. An update from the White House Safer Workforce Task Force states that the Nov. 22 deadline for federal workers to be fully vaccinated means that agencies can begin the disciplinary process for employees who refuse to comply on Nov. 9, since it takes two weeks from the second Pfizer or Moderna shot—and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine—for the vaccine to provide full protection. Federal workers who fail to get vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination by Nov. 8 will be deemed to be in “violation of a lawful order,” at which point agencies should begin the “enforcement process.” That process begins with a five-day counseling period, in which agencies should provide the noncompliant employee with information on the benefits of vaccination and how to get the vaccine. If an employee continues to refuse to get vaccinated after that five-day period, managers should issue a short suspension of 14 days or fewer, the task force said. “Continued noncompliance during the suspension can be followed by proposing removal,” the task force wrote. “Unique operational needs of agencies and the circumstances affecting a particular employee may warrant departure from these guidelines if necessary, but consistency across government in enforcement of this government-wide vaccine policy is desired, and the executive order does not permit exceptions from the vaccine requirement except as required by law.” The Office of Personnel Management provided additional details in the form of an FAQ, and noted that agencies should not move forward to enforce the vaccine mandate on anyone who has been granted a religious or medical exception or on anyone who has requested an exception that is still under review. OPM also stressed that agencies should abide by employees’ procedural rights, as well as any union contract provisions governing disciplinary procedures, as they move to enforce the vaccine mandate…”
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