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Federal agencies prepare to take action against unvaccinated employees

(Hill) – Federal government agencies are preparing to take increasingly harsh steps for unvaccinated employees to take President BidenFederal workers’ COVID-19 vaccine regulation.

Some agencies plan to send out warning letters about possible work suspensions to employees who fail to comply with their duties. Many are also prepared to fire employees who don’t follow the rules, though such moves will further down the road.

Compliance rates are high across the federal government, and agencies say they don’t expect the suspension or sanction to cause disruption.

The White House in November asked agencies to stop imposing harsher penalties until after the new year and focus on educating and counseling those who fail to comply with their mandate. Now, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) says agencies can take stricter measures at their discretion.

An OMB spokesperson told The Hill: “Agencies continue to conduct this process, including taking progressive disciplinary action as necessary.

The regulation of a federal worker’s COVID-19 vaccine is the cornerstone of the coronavirus response in Biden. The deadline for federal workers to comply with the mandate is November 24, when 92 percent of the 3.5 million federal government employees have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The federal government’s current rate of compliance with the mandate is unclear as some agencies did not provide up-to-date data when The Hill was reached, but several agencies report progress has been made since that time. November deadline by advising employees who have not received their shots.

The Departments of Finance, Transportation and Agriculture as well as the General Services Administration, the Social Security Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are all expected to begin suspending employees. non-compliance with duties in the coming weeks.

The agencies have not given a specific time frame for notifying employees of the suspension, but experts say they will move relatively quickly as four months have passed since Biden announced the regulation.

The federal government employs an abundant workforce, and its vaccine policy affects most of its 3.5 million workers. Health experts see the federal mandate as powerful, especially as Biden’s other vaccine mandates, for big businesses and health care workers, are tied up in procedures. court.

Conservative members of the Supreme Court on Friday be skeptical authorized Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine testing or testing for private businesses with 100 or more employees and questioned whether the administration had legal authority over the policy.

“This is important because the federal workforce is so large and spread across the country and not just in Washington, DC. I think this also gives a voice to cities and states to do it for their own workers and ultimately to encourage private sector companies Lawrence Gostin, professor of health law to public health at Georgetown University.

“If the federal government can demonstrate that this can be done seamlessly without a lot of setbacks and without a lot of people leaving the workforce, that will encourage cities and states and The whole private sector followed suit,” says Gostin.

While the vast majority of employees across the government have complied with their duties, the latest data shows that at least a few thousand employees have not been vaccinated or presented a valid religious or medical exemption. .

As of this week, the White House and the Department of Education have both achieved full compliance, the first known agencies to do so.

At the Department of Education, about 3,900 employees have either received at least one dose of the vaccine or have a pending or approved exception. The department also has a vaccination rate of 97 percent, which includes only employees who received the first and second doses of vaccinations.

Several agencies have also succeeded in convincing unvaccinated workers by the end of the year. The Social Security Administration, for example, on Friday achieved a 98.9% compliance rate and a 91.5 vaccination rate, compared with a 95% compliance rate and an 87.7 vaccination rate. % in November.

A Department of Transportation spokesperson also said that the department “has seen more compliance following the education and advisory steps completed in December, and the next steps in enforcement will include warning letters.” notice of short-term suspensions for some who still do not comply.”

The department says 99.9% of its approximately 52,500 employees are vaccinated with at least one dose or have an extension request or exception pending or approved, meaning only about 50 employees are not complying. duty keeper.

Other agencies have larger numbers of unvaccinated workers who don’t adhere to Biden’s mandate.

Just under 98% of the Department of Agriculture’s 75,955 permanent employees are abiding by duty, meaning about 1,587 employees are facing advice and potentially more drastic measures.

With a 99% compliance rate, nearly 960 of the Treasury’s 95,800 employees are unvaccinated and have no pending or approved exceptions.

When contacted by The Hill, many agencies said they did not expect suspensions or fines due to the vaccine mandate to adversely affect key government operations.

Gostin said a fair amount of planning would be needed to ensure that federal functions were not disrupted by any suspensions or prison sentences, suggesting that agencies implement suspensions or layoffs under phase by stage and start recruiting new workers to fill any position. He also said that the government needs to implement a reasonable vaccine verification system.

“The federal government has a lot of experience in ensuring that operations continue even if your workforce is disrupted,” said Gostin, who points to the government shutdown preparations and severe weather. “It’s important to make sure that the disruption is minimal.”

https://www.kxan.com/news/coronavirus/federal-agencies-prepare-to-act-against-unvaccinated-employees/ Federal agencies prepare to take action against unvaccinated employees

Tom Vazquez

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