Biden administration to "pause" punishment of unvaccinated feds

AP Photo/LM Otero

The President’s mandate that all federal workers must be vaccinated has already gone into effect, although everyone was given a grace period to receive counseling and reconsider their decision not to comply. The first round of dismissals of the unvaccinated was slated to take place this week. But that entire process was thrown into disarray on Friday when a federal court issued an injunction against the mandate, saying that Joe Biden had overstepped the limits of his executive powers. Today, the White House ran up the white flag and indicated that it would abide by the injunction and not begin disciplinary proceedings against federal workers who still refuse to comply. This may not represent a permanent end to the issue since the decision is still being appealed, but at least those at risk of being dismissed are being given some breathing room. The real question is what will be done about those who were already adversely impacted by the planned mandate. (Government Executive.)

Just as the Biden administration was preparing to suspend thousands of employees across the government for failure to comply with its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, it has issued a notice that it will pause all enforcement.

The updated guidance brings the administration in compliance with an injunction issued by a federal court in Texas on Friday, which found that President Biden had overstepped his authority in issuing the executive order last September. The Biden administration had told the court that Friday was the first day that suspensions for some unvaccinated federal employees who had not requested a medical or religious exemption to the mandate would have begun, after it delayed those penalties late last year.

β€œTo 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 Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, a Biden-created group led by officials in the White House, Office of Personnel Management and General Services Administration, said on Monday.

The punishment phase of this program would have had a severe impact on a lot of people. More than 40,000 federal workers remain unvaccinated and were looking at termination. Another 100,000 have requested exemptions and are waiting for the results of those requests before learning their fate. But now, unless the injunction is lifted, the federal government won’t continue processing the exemption requests.

If the courts don’t turn this around, we may have heard the last of this issue, at least for the federal workforce, and people can get back to going about their business. But that won’t apply to everyone. Two groups of people in particular may wind up being incensed at the results of this “hurry up and wait” situation.

First, there are all of the people who thought they saw the writing on the wall and left their jobs to look for work with companies not imposing these types of restrictions. If the mandate is permanently dropped, will they be offered their jobs back? I somehow doubt it. And the years that they put in while planning on a comfortable retirement will have gone to waste for many of them.

And then there are the people who felt they couldn’t afford to give up their government careers and finally caved and went to get a vaccination they did not want and perhaps didn’t trust. What about them? Unlike a person’s employment situation, the vaccine can’t be “reversed.” As we’ve discussed here in the past, once the person administering the jab finishes pushing in the plunger, that vaccine rapidly spreads throughout your body. It can’t be taken back out.

It’s probably just wishful thinking on my part, but I keep telling myself that the day will come when all of this madness will be behind us and things will get back to some semblance of the “old normal.” But these policies will probably cause long-lasting issues further down the road even if that happens. I won’t be surprised if we someday see a raft of lawsuits being brought by people who were forced by the government to undergo a medical procedure against their wishes. And the next generation will look back on these times and likely not judge their government very favorably.