Latest release provides some flexibility as workers face termination for non-compliance.
Amid a backlash from workers of federal contractors, including right here in Mississippi, the White House released updated guidance on Monday as it relates to President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandates.
The new guidance appears to provide some flexibility for federal contractors as they have been under the gun with a December 8th deadline that will likely result in the termination of workers who do not comply.
READ MORE: Ingalls workers concerned Mississippi, lawmakers aren’t fighting Biden’s COVID vaccine mandates
According to the guidance, federal contractors “may be” required to provide accommodations who do not get vaccinated for COVID because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, adding that the contractor should consider what accommodation it must offer. The White House guidance appears to put the ball for this determination in the contractors’ court.
“A covered contractor may be required to provide an accommodation to contractor employees who communicate to the covered contractor that they are not vaccinated for COVID-19, or that they cannot wear a mask, because of a disability (which would include medical conditions) or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. A covered contractor should review and consider what, if any, accommodation it must offer,” the guidance says. “The contractor is responsible for considering, and dispositioning, such requests for accommodations regardless of the covered contractor employee’s place of performance. If the agency that is the party to the covered contract is a ‘joint employer’ for purposes of compliance with the Rehabilitation Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, both the agency and the covered contractor should review and consider what, if any, accommodation they must offer.”
The new guidance also provides for cases where the employee does not meet the legal definition of “disability,” which allows them to be entitled to an accommodation under the Rehabilitation Act. Federal contractors are instructed that in some limited circumstances they are allowed to grant employees an extension to a vaccination deadline based upon other medical considerations.
The guidance goes further as it relates to new hires by federal contractors, saying that the contractor “may still be reviewing requests for accommodation as of the time that covered contractor employees begin work on a covered contract or at a covered workplace.”
Some federal contractors, such as Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, have made COVID vaccination as a condition of new employment because of President Biden’s mandate.