Federal workers have until Monday to prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19 or seek an exemption.
The White House will not back down from next week’s deadline for virtually all federal employees to prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19, despite calls for a delay.
The federal workforce has until Nov. 22 to provide documentation demonstrating they are inoculated or to request an exemption under an executive order issued by President Biden. The White House pushed back the date for federal contractors to receive their final vaccine shot to Jan. 4, bringing it in line with an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that may apply to large private employers. The OSHA mandate is on hold after a federal court temporarily struck it down.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 700,000 federal workers, as well as some lawmakers, have called for the Biden administration to push back the vaccination deadline for federal employees to match that for contractors. Kevin Munoz, a White House spokesman, told Government Executive on Wednesday no delay was forthcoming. He also sought to knock down any speculation that the deadline would accompany widespread firings or other disciplinary actions that disrupt agency operations.
“We have strong confidence this’ll be no issue,” Munoz said.
AFGE President Everett Kelley had sought the delay, saying it would provide fairness in the workplace and give employees the holiday season to consider their options. For agencies approaching their busiest seasons over the holidays, such as the Transportation Security Administration, Kelley said it would ensure any workforce disruptions took place in a less hectic period. TSA has also sought to tamp down any concern that it would have to remove employees in the coming weeks, saying its compliance rate is "very high."
“We do not anticipate any disruptions because of the vaccination requirements,” said Max Weitzner, a TSA spokesman. “We have made huge progress in our vaccination efforts, and as we approach the Nov. 22 deadline, we view that as not so much a cliff, but a step to further counsel any unvaccinated employees.”
A small contingent of federal workers throughout government have insisted they will not get the COVID-19 vaccine under any circumstances. Most of them are seeking religious or medical exemptions, but some have said they are simply going to retire or quit. Employees seeking exemptions could still face firings depending on their claims and specific work situations.
A slight majority of federal employees disagree with Biden's vaccine mandate, according to a recent survey conducted by the Government Business Council, Government Executive’s research arm.
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