This version of the story includes updated information from news reports, including the potential for regular testing for unvaccinated federal workers.
Federal employees would be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine or undergo regular virus testing under a mandate the White House is considering, according to news reports Tuesday.
President Joe Biden hinted at the announcement in a speech Tuesday to federal intelligence employees, saying that an executive mandate was “under consideration.”
COVID-19 cases caused by the more contagious Delta variant of the disease are rising. “We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated. They are sowing enormous confusion, and the more we learn about this virus and the Delta variation, the more we have to be worried, concerned,” Biden said in his Tuesday remarks.
“And the only one thing we know for sure is if those other 100 million people got vaccinated we’d be in a very different world.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs already instructed medical employees to get the vaccine or risk losing their jobs, and Biden’s mandate would spread that requirement to other agencies and job classifications.
Federal equal employment opportunity laws do not prohibit employers in the public or private sectors from requiring employees to get the COVID vaccine in order to be physically present at the office. That requirement cannot, however, infringe on a person with a disability or sincerely held religious belief who does not get the vaccine, unless doing so would cause undue hardship for the employer, according to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
Protected employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act include pregnant workers or people with compromised immunity who cannot get vaccinated.
Federal health insurance providers have already moved to encourage feds to get vaccinated, with the largest two offering monetary incentives for those who can produce proof of vaccination.
As the largest employer in the world, the federal government requiring employees to get vaccinated would represent a major push forward for vaccination mandates across the U.S.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.