On September 9, 2021, President Biden signed two Executive Orders imposing sweeping new vaccine mandates on federal workers and contractors. This new mandate represents a shift in the White House’s policy on vaccinations, which had previously offered an alternative to those who wish to remain unvaccinated by allowing those individuals to wear masks while on federal property as long as they submitted to regular screening for COVID-19.
All federal employees, contractors and subcontractors employed by the federal government shall be required to provide proof of vaccination “subject to such exceptions as required by law.” There is no longer an alternative option to submit a weekly negative COVID-19 test. However, employees may still present evidence of a religious or medical exemption to avoid becoming vaccinated.
While not expressly addressed in the Executive Order, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated that federal workers and contractors will have about 75 days to get fully vaccinated or apply for a religious or medical exemption to be deemed in compliance with the new mandate.
In addition, during his speech to the nation, President Biden indicated that the Department of Labor will impose a mandate for private employers with over 100 workers to implement vaccine-or-test mandates among their employees. Businesses that do not comply with the order could face “substantial fines.”
Both public and private employers should consult with an experienced employment attorney to properly implement these new mandates to avoid potential fines, or claims of retaliation or discrimination.