Update on Vaccine Requirements for Federal Employees May Give Insight on Requirements for Private Employers

As we all wait in quiet anticipation for the forthcoming Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) from OSHA pertaining to vaccination and testing, employers attempting to prepare for the new standards may want to look toward the guidelines currently being implemented for federal employees.  For those who were not aware, federal employees have until November 22, 2021 to be fully vaccinated.  New updates have appeared on FAQ page of the Safe Federal Workforce website pertaining to what, exactly, is required for federal workers to comply.

Regarding the documentation required, the FAQs state that federal agencies must require documentation from employees to prove vaccination, even if an employee has previously attested to his/her vaccination status.  Regarding the acceptable forms of immunization records, employees may provide:

  • A copy of the record of immunization from a health care provider or pharmacy;
  • A copy of the Covid-19 Vaccination Record Card;
  • A copy of medical records documenting the vaccination;
  • A copy of immunization records from a public health or state immunization system; or
  • A copy of any other official documentation containing required data points.

Documentation must include the type of vaccine administered, dates of administration, and the name of the health care provider or clinic site administering the vaccine.  Digital copies of the above are acceptable.

Regarding collecting and storage of the information, the only guidance is that agencies may develop their own processes to both collect and maintain the required information “in compliance with all applicable laws and in accordance with their agency record management policies.”

The feds also offer advice pertaining to the new rules and working with employee unions.  It states, “Bargaining over this Government-wide policy will be limited to impact and implementation issues not otherwise addressed in the guidance.”  This guidance could be helpful for private employers working with unions, as well as government employers if and when local legislation is passed to mirror federal requirements.  Employers are not required to bargain over health and safety requirements for employees.  They are, however, subject to the requirement to negotiate the impacts of health and safety requirements on the terms and conditions of employment for employees.

While we cannot be sure exactly what employer obligations will be for the upcoming ETS, the above guidance may help employers prepare for what’s to come.  While the federal requirements do not discuss what is needed for employee testing, there is likely no sense in OSHA “reinventing the wheel” when it comes to vaccine documentation.  If you, or your organization, need assistance in preparing for the upcoming ETS, or working with employees during the pandemic, contact Wiley Reber Law, for legal advice that works.