The White House’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force released new guidance on Jan. 24 instructing agencies to pause enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Federal employees amid a preliminary court injunction that blocks the mandate nationwide.
“To ensure compliance with an applicable preliminary nationwide injunction, which may be supplemented, modified, or vacated, depending on the course of ongoing litigation, the Federal government will take no action to implement or enforce the COVID-19 vaccination requirement,” the task force told agencies.
The new guidance says that agencies may still ask for employees’ vaccination status for the purposes of implementing safety protocols, but may not take disciplinary action against unvaccinated employees.
So long as the injunction is in place, agencies will need to lift any active employee suspensions and hold off on all disciplinary actions related to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
However, the guidance notes disciplinary actions taken before the injunction was put in place do not need to be reversed.
“At this time agencies do not need to revoke or rescind disciplinary actions associated with enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccination requirement pursuant to E.O. 14043 that were already effectuated prior to the nationwide injunction,” the guidance says. “For example, agencies do not need to repeal, rescind, or revoke letters of education and counseling, letters of reprimand, or proposals of suspensions, which may be stored in employee Official Personnel Folders or other agency files.”
The guidance also notes that agencies with COVID-19 vaccination requirements “unrelated to E.O. 14043 and pursuant to other authorities” may continue to implement and enforce those requirements.
The Biden administration has already taken legal action to appeal the court injunction.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted 98 percent of Federal employees are already in compliance with the vaccine mandate as of Jan. 21, and the Biden administration remains “confident in our legal authority here.”