| Read Time: 2 minutes | COVID-19

On July 29, 2021, the Biden administration announced all federal workers—including service members of the United States military—will be required to show proof of being vaccinated against COVID-19 or otherwise submit to regular testing and wear a mask, as the delta variant has recently caused a significant rise in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths – especially among the unvaccinated. 

Additionally, the White House required all employees to wear masks while on the premises, regardless of vaccination status. 

On July 26, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to issue a vaccine mandate for its front-line healthcare workers. The federal government employs over four million Americans across the nation and around the globe. 

Basically, the legality of vaccine mandates is clear. In May, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said federal laws do not prohibit an employer from requiring an employee who physically enters a workplace to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The Justice Department’s Office of Legall Counsel also said the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act does not restrict private or public sector employers from instituting a vaccine requirement on their workers, even though the COVID-19 has been issued under an “emergency use authorization” from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Recent rulings—including a federal court ruling to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 117 workers at a Texas hospital over its vaccine mandate—have upheld the requirements from the EEOC and DOJ. In a 2002 case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the Navy’s termination of two civilian employees who refused the anthrax vaccine before they were deployed on a naval ship to Korea, saying that the civilian mariners failed to obey a direct order, making such insubordination considered workplace misconduct. 

Keep in mind, employers who require employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine must provide reasonable accommodations for workers who are exempted from such mandates due to medical or religious reasons. However, if an employee fails to comply with a workplace vaccine mandate, regular testing, or any accommodations, he/she will likely face disciplinary action, which includes job termination. 

If your employer has failed to provide you with reasonable accommodations related to COVID-19 vaccinations, contact our federal employment law attorneys at Pines Federal today at (800) 801-0598. Our legal team has more than 50 years of combined legal experience! 

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Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative.

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