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Federal government employees, both those who go to work in person and those who work remotely, must show proof of vaccination, according to the new guidance issued Thursday.
The directive comes a week after President Joe Biden signed an executive order requiring vaccinations for federal employees, without the option to undergo regular testing to choose not to get vaccinated.
The decision is part of a radical attempt to contain the latest increase in COVID-19 cases.
Government employees must be "fully vaccinated" by Nov. 22, the task force said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider that people are fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of vaccines that require two doses or two weeks after getting the one-shot vaccine. single dose.
To meet this deadline, workers must receive the final dose of their vaccine no later than November 8.
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Employee vaccination documentation must include information on the type of vaccine received, the date of administration, and the place where it was received.
"Employees must certify under penalty of perjury that the documentation they are submitting is true and correct," according to the guide.
The task force also notes that all federal employees covered by the executive order must be fully vaccinated, "no matter where they are working."
“Employees who are at maximum telecommuting or working remotely are not exempt from this requirement, even because employees who work off-site may interact with the public as part of their duties and agencies may need to remove employees. employees who are at maximum telecommuting or working remotely ”, says the guide.
The guidance was issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, which is led by the White House Covid-19 Response Team, the General Services Administration, and the Office of Personnel Management.
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There are exceptions in "limited circumstances" as required by law
Thursday's guidance emphasizes that the requirement applies to federal employees, except in "limited circumstances where the law requires an exception."
Agencies "may be required to provide a reasonable accommodation to employees who communicate to them that they are not vaccinated against COVID-19 due to a disability or due to a sincere religious belief, practice or observance," the working group notes say. adding that additional guidance on legally required exceptions will be published soon.
The way agencies assess whether an exception is legally required “will include consideration of factors such as the basis of the claim;
the nature of the employee's job responsibilities;
and the reasonably foreseeable effects on the agency's operations, including the protection of other agency employees and the public against COVID-19, ”the guidance says.
"Because such evaluations will depend on the facts and context, agencies are encouraged to consult their general counsel offices with questions related to the evaluation and implementation of the requested accommodations," it adds.
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Compliance with the vaccine requirement
Regarding compliance with the vaccine requirement, the working group instructs agencies, “as an initial matter,” to provide information on the benefits of getting vaccinated and how to receive the vaccine.
"If the individual continues to refuse to be vaccinated or to provide proof of vaccination, the agency must take disciplinary action, up to and including removal of the employee from federal service," the group's guidance notes say.
"Employees should not be placed on administrative leave while pursuing adverse action for refusing to be vaccinated, but will be required to follow safety protocols for employees who are not fully vaccinated when reporting to agency workplaces. ", adds the guide.
However, the process is slightly different for employees claiming a legally required exception to refuse the vaccine.
Agencies should follow their regular process to review what accommodations should be offered, the task force said.
"If the employee's request for an accommodation is denied and the employee does not comply with the immunization requirement, the agency may take disciplinary action, up to and including removal from federal service," the guidance says.
The task force also urged agencies to discuss their vaccination plans with employee unions "at their earliest opportunity," noting that additional guidance will be received "that will address further implementation issues."