vaccine mandate federal employees

3 Things to Know About Vaccine Mandates for Federal Employees

COVID-19 vaccines are designed to protect people from the harmful effects of COVID-19. Not only can they help to prevent infection, but they can also reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent infection is through vaccination. 

To protect federal workers and the members of the public they interact with and to maintain the efficiency of civil service, Biden signed two Executive Orders on September 9, 2021. The first one requires all executive branch federal employees to get vaccinated, and the second requires federal contractors, hospitals, and other institutions that receive federal funding to do the same. “It is essential that Federal employees take all available steps to protect themselves and avoid spreading COVID-19 to their co-workers and members of the public,” said President Biden. Here are three things to know about vaccine mandates for federal employees.

1. When do federal employees and contractors need to be vaccinated?

Under the order, federal employees should be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021. To be considered fully vaccinated, two weeks need to have passed from when a person receives their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one does of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

2. Does the order pertain to remote workers?

Yes, the executive order applies to federal employees who work remotely. According to the Safer Federal Workforce, federal employees are required to get vaccinated regardless of where they work unless they are exempt from vaccination. 

3. What should agencies do to comply with the order?

The mandate requires agencies to implement a program that requires all Federal employees to get vaccinated, except for those who are exempt.

Agencies must require their employees to provide proof of their vaccination status. Employees may provide a copy of their immunization record, vaccination card, medical records documenting the vaccination, immunization records from a public health or state immunization information system, or any other official documentation that contains:

  • the type of vaccine administered
  • the date(s) of administration
  • the name of the health care professional or clinic that administered the vaccine

 Employees must certify that the documentation they are submitting is accurate.

Agencies are also required to maintain documentation provided by employees regarding their vaccination status.

Learn More About the Vaccination Mandates for Federal Employees and Contractors

For More Information About Vaccine Mandates for federal employees and federal contractors, please read the Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Announces Details of Two Major Vaccination Policies.

first responders

What’s the Deal with COVID-19 Testing Mandates and First Responders

Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published an emergency temporary standard (ETS) in an effort to protect employees of large employers against COVID-19 by encouraging vaccination. The ETS requires employers with 100 employees or more to require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or allow them to get tested weekly and wear a mask in the workplace. Since the order was published, there has been confusion about which businesses and employees this rule applies to. More specifically, what does it mean for first responders in California? 

Cal/OSHA ATD Standard

The confusion stems from the California Division of OSHA’s (Cal/OSHA) Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) Standard (California Code of Regulations, title 8, section 5199) that came into effect in 2009. The safety laws under the ATD Standard apply to California employers who have employees with occupational exposure to infectious diseases spread by inhalable particles and droplets. Under the Cal/OSHA ATD Standard, employers are required to protect their workers by creating written safety plans, providing protective equipment as needed, and training employees on safety procedures. Occupational exposure refers to exposure from work-related activity or working conditions that is reasonably expected to increase the risk of contracting any disease caused by aerosol transmissible pathogens if protective measures aren’t in place.

Because first responders have occupational exposure to aerosol transmissible diseases, they are covered by the requirements of section 5199 and not the federal ETS, except for those in states with OSHA-approved state plans, like California. 


California has its own ETS standard that applies to most employers, employees, and all places of employment, including first responders. 

There are a few differences between OSHA’s federal ETS and Cal/OSHA ETS. For one, the federal ETS requires unvaccinated employees to be tested at least once per week, while California’s order does not mandate weekly testing. Instead, it only requires testing for outbreaks and potentially exposed employees with close contact with an infected person (unless they are asymptomatic and fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID-19. Also, the federal ETS does not require employers to provide employee testing, while California’s order requires employers to make testing available at no cost. Employees must also be paid for the time they spend testing. 

Additionally, under the Cal/OSHA ETS standard, the virus that causes COVID-19 is classified as a disease or pathogen that requires isolation, subjecting the virus to stricter control standards than disease requiring only droplet precautions.

First Responders and Testing Mandates

As of today, testing mandates vary between counties and even within cities. Certain counties, like Almeda County Department of Public Health, require first responders to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to weekly testing and wear a mask. Marin County Public Health also announced a vaccine and testing mandate.

The City of Los Angeles has a strict vaccine mandate for city employees, including first responders. They are required to get vaccinated by December 18th. Until that date, unvaccinated employees must be tested twice weekly for a cost of $65 per test, deducted from their paychecks.  

employers comply with ETS

5 Steps Large Employers Can Take to Comply With OSHA’s ETS

Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published the Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). Under the ETS, employers with over 100 employees must ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require unvaccinated employees to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. To maintain compliance and avoid fines, many large employers want to know what they need to do to meet the new testing mandates. 

1) Create a Vaccination Policy

Under the ETS, employers are required to develop, implement, and enforce a COVID-19 policy that requires employees vaccinated against the virus or a policy that allows unvaccinated workers to undergo weekly testing and wear a face mask in the workplace.

In addition to the vaccination or testing requirements, the policy must require employees to notify employers if they test positive or are diagnosed with COVID-19. The policy must detail the procedure for employees to follow if they are infected with the virus. 

2) Maintain Records

Employers are responsible for getting each employee’s vaccination status, obtaining proof of vaccination, maintaining records of employees’ vaccination status, and a roster of each employee’s vaccination status. Employers can confirm their vaccination status by requesting a copy of their employee’s vaccine card, reviewing their employee’s vaccination record, or signing an attestation of vaccination. Employees that don’t provide proof of vaccination should be treated as if they are unvaccinated. 

Employers are also required to maintain records of the weekly testing required by unvaccinated employees. Employers should also remember to treat these records, along with those related to an employee’s vaccination status, as they would any other confidential medical records. 

3) Remove Employees Positive for COVID-19 From Worksite

Employers must require employees to promptly provide notice to the employer when they test positive for COVID-19 or are diagnosed with COVID by a licensed health care provider. They must remove infected employees from the worksite until they meet the criteria to return to work. Employers may allow employees back on-site when they meet one of the following criteria to return to work:

  • The employee receives a specific negative confirmatory test
  • Meet the criteria in the CDC’s “Isolation Guidance”
  • Receive a recommendation to return to work from a licensed health care provider

4) Support Vaccine Mandate

Employers are required to provide workers who are not fully vaccinated with reasonable time to get vaccinated, including up to four hours, of paid time to receive each dose of the vaccine. They are also required to provide paid sick leave to employees to recover from any side effects that follow each dose. 

Under the ETS, employers are not required to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing, should they allow employees the option to consent to weekly testing. Nor are they required to provide paid time off to employees that test positive for COVID. However, they should check with the state, local, or other applicable laws and regulations.

5) Provide Employees With Appropriate Information Regarding the ETS

Employers must provide employees with relevant and current information about the ETS in a language and at a literacy level that the employee understands. Doing so ensures employees understand their rights and responsibilities and their employer’s policies and procedures.

The information must include information about employees’ protections from retaliation and discrimination, information about the available COVID-19 vaccines, laws related to criminal penalties for supplying false statements, and the potential penalties for providing false information to their employer.

For More Information

For more information on how employers can comply with OSHA’s ETS, please review the “COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing; Emergency Temporary Standard.

6 Things Employers Should Know About OSHA’s ETS

On November 5, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published an emergency temporary standard (ETS) on vaccination and testing in the Office of the Federal Register in an effort to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. OSHA’s ETS requires workers at large companies to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to weekly testing and wear a mask in the workplace. Employees who test negative must be removed from the workplace. For employers to maintain compliance with OSHA’s ETS, they first need to understand how the rules apply to their business. Here are six things employers should know about OSHA’s ETS.

1) What is an ETS?

To justify an ETS, OSHA must determine that workers are in grave danger, and an emergency standard is needed to protect them from that danger, allowing OSHA to bypass temporarily bypass the formal rulemaking process. An ETS takes effect immediately and remains in effect until a permanent OSHA standard replaces it.  

According to OSHA, unvaccinated employees are more likely to get and transmit COVID-19 in the workplace than vaccinated employees, which can lead to serious illness and death. OSHA argues that the ETS can prevent these devastating consequences by strongly encouraging vaccination and protecting those who remain unvaccinated through regular testing, requiring the use of face masks, and removing infected employees from the workplace. 

2) What businesses does the ETS apply to?

While there are a few exceptions, this standard generally applies to all workplaces under OSHA’s authority and jurisdiction with 100 employees or more. It does not apply to employees who don’t report to a workplace with other employees, such as those who work from home, or exclusively outdoors. 

3) What do employers need to do to comply with the ETS?

Employers who fall under the standard must create, implement, and enforce a COVID-19 vaccination policy or a testing protocol that requires unvaccinated employees to test negative weekly and wear a mask while at work. Employees who test positive or are diagnosed with COVID-19 must immediately notify employers. Employers must remove them from the workplace until they meet the requirements for returning to work. 

Employers are responsible for determining the vaccination status of each employee. Additionally, they must obtain proof, maintain a record and a roster containing their status. 

It’s important for employers to know that the ETS does not require employers to pay for the cost of weekly testing for unvaccinated employees. However, certain laws, regulations, or agreements may require them to assume the costs. 

4) What happens if employers don’t comply with the ETS?

Companies that fail to comply with the regulations could be subject to penalties amounting to nearly $14,000 per violation. This amount may increase tenfold for employers that willfully violate the rule. 

5) Do employers need to report positive cases?

The ETS does not require employers to report positive cases to OSHA; however, they must notify them about work-related COVID-19 fatalities within 8 hours of learning about them. Employers must also notify OSHA about work-related hospitalizations within 24 hours. 

6) What records do businesses need to disclose to OSHA?

Under the ETS, OSHA, employees, and employee representatives can request records from employers to determine compliance.

If requested by OSHA, employers must provide the aggregate number of fully vaccinated employees and the total number of employees at the workplace within four business hours. Employers have until the end of the next business day if an employee or a representative requests this information.

Employers also have four hours to provide OSHA with their written policies for compliance with the ETS and until the end of the next business day to provide any other requested documentation.

Employer Decisions

To remain compliant with OSHA’s ETS, employers need to review and possibly revise their existing policies. They will also need to decide if they will require vaccination or allow their employees to opt for weekly testing.