By: Eva Zelson
On: September 1, 2021
What does Biden’s Vaccine Mandate for Federal Employees mean?
President Biden’s federal vaccine mandate now requires all federally employed individuals to submit proof of vaccination to their employer before they are allowed to return to work. If they fail to do so, those employees face strict COVID-19 testing measures, masking requirements, and limited return to work. This means that about 4 million people directly employed by the federal government are required to show proof of vaccination. The mandate also seems to include employees contracted by the federal government, so an additional 7 million employees must show proof of vaccination. Workers who refuse vaccination or testing can be terminated and may not qualify for unemployment benefits in such cases.
Can my Employer Require Me to be Vaccinated Against COVID-19?
Yes, the law allows employers to require employees to be vaccinated, including the federal vaccine mandate. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated that it is completely legal under federal law for employers to require their employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In the past, US courts including the Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, have ruled that companies can require vaccines due to the threat unvaccinated persons pose to others in the workplace. Importantly, it is not a HIPAA violation for the employer to ask an employee about their vaccine status or request proof. Only a few exceptions to this exist, such as health or religious reasons, but these are considered on a case-by-case basis. Contact Zeff Law Firm to discuss your case.
Does the Federal Mandate Set a Precedent for Private-Sector Employer Policies?
The federal vaccine mandate does indeed set a precedent for private-sector employers. These private employers can now point to President Biden’s vaccine mandate as justification for their own vaccination policies. The federal mandate also sets precedent for how to handle employees that may refuse the vaccine or fail to provide proof of vaccination, which should also reduce employer’s fears of legal repercussions. Private-sector employers can also learn from the federal government’s handling of the mandate to find appropriate ways of verifying employee vaccination status, how to store that information safely, and identifying when employees may be falsifying their vaccination status. Many private employers may realize that requiring proof of vaccination alleviates employee concerns about returning to the workplace as well, further incentivizing them to follow in the federal mandate’s footsteps. If you have questions about exactly what health information you should share with your employer, contact Zeff Law Firm’s employment lawyers.
Under the Mandate, What Happens If Federal Employees Refuse the Vaccine or Request Exemptions?
Although it has been labeled as a federal vaccine mandate in the media, it is important to remember that President Biden has not outright mandated that all federal workers receive the vaccine. However, the policy does aim to make life extremely difficult for those employed by the federal government to return to work without the vaccine. For those who are unvaccinated or request exemptions, federal employers will require the employee to undergo frequent COVID-19 tests to determine their health status and require social distancing and masks if and when they are allowed in the workplace. Federal employees will also be expected to fill out a form attesting to the status of their vaccination, and those that lie on the form can and may be subject to disciplinary action and possible criminal prosecution. Contact the employment lawyers at Zeff Law Firm with questions about requesting an exemption to the vaccine.
Is the Federal Vaccine Mandate Expected to have an Impact on Covid-19?
The federal vaccine mandate is indeed expected to have an impact on COVID-19 by imposing measures on employees who have not received the vaccine. President Biden’s administration hopes that it will encourage more adults to become vaccinated and reduce the spread of the virus. Because the vaccine has been shown to drastically reduce the severity of symptoms of COVID-19, this should also reduce the impact on the country’s overloaded healthcare and hospital institutions. The mandate is also expected to limit the number of high-risk employees from returning to the workplace, which is also expected to lessen the transmission of the virus in workplace environments.
What If an Employee Refuses to Come to Work for Fear of Infection?
This can be tricky legal ground to navigate, as there are some instances where employees can refuse to return to work, but also instances where those concerns are not valid. If the employee believes that their workplace is unsafe and can produce specific reasons for their fear of infection, then the employee likely has just cause to not return to work. However, if the employee has a generalized fear of contracting COVID-19, then they have very little legal basis for not showing up to work. Additionally, if the employer can address the employee’s specific fears of infection and adjust the workplace accordingly, the employer can act against the employee if they still refuse to return to the workplace. Contact the employment lawyers at Zeff Law Firm with questions if you don’t feel safe returning to work.
Zeff Law Firm can help Employers Navigate Covid-19 Vaccination Requirements
As the federal vaccine mandate is new and still being fully understood by private employers, it is important for employers to understand their rights as well as the rights of their employees when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations. At Zeff Law Firm, our attorneys are well versed in employment law and can help your business navigate the minefield of laws and regulations surrounding these issues. Contact Zeff Law Firm today for a consultation.