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Federal government can start enforcing Biden's vaccine mandate for employees early next month, OPM says

Posted October 2, 2021 2:59 p.m. EDT

— Federal agency and department heads can begin enforcing President Joe Biden's vaccine mandates for its employees early next month, according to new guidance from the US Office of Personnel Management.

In order to be considered fully vaccinated by the November 22 deadline, federal employees must receive their final vaccine dose by November 8.

An OPM memo issued Friday sets November 9 as the first day that agencies can start taking disciplinary actions for federal employees who still refuse to get vaccinated without a legal exception.

Agencies are advised to begin the process with a five-day period of counseling and education and allow employees to prove they've initiated the vaccination process or request an exception.

If the employee still refuses, the agency should pursue disciplinary action, "up to and including removal or termination" from their positions.

Agencies, however, are "strongly encouraged" to first consider a short suspension of 14 days or less for the the federal employee before firing or removing them.

Federal News Network was first to report on the updated guidance.

The guidance comes after a reversal in the administration's approach in mid-September, when it said federal employees could be fired for not complying with the vaccine mandate. Earlier, it had said employees could be put on administrative leave.

OPM said employees should not be placed on administrative leave during the disciplinary action process.

It also states that if an employee provides proof of a single vaccine dose while undergoing disciplinary measures, "the agency should hold the discipline in abeyance to afford the employee a reasonable period of time to become fully vaccinated." If an employee claims a legal exception, the ordinary process for review must be initiated.

The memo follows up on the executive order Biden signed on September 9 that requires all government employees be vaccinated against Covid-19.

This guidance comes a week after four Air Force officers and a Secret Service agent filed a lawsuit asking the court to block the Biden administration's vaccine mandate, the Washington Post reported.

Biden has also directed the Labor Department to require all businesses with 100 or more employees ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested once a week.

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