Staff of semi-autonomous agencies also included ‘Exclusion may ultimately mean termination’
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has made it mandatory for all Executive Branch employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19, as a means to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to ensure a healthy and safe work environment.
In a directive Thursday, Torres said this policy applies also to semi-autonomous agencies and entities.
The same directive does not apply to other branches of government and autonomous agencies and entities, but Torres encourages these agencies, including the Commonwealth Ports Authority and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., to respond to the present situation in a similar manner.
“Consistent with the duty to provide and maintain a workplace free of recognized hazards, this policy is adopted to safeguard the health and wellbeing of employees and their families, patrons, clients, visitors, others who spend time in our facilities, and the community, from the risks associated with COVID-19,” he said.
Torres said this policy is intended to comply with applicable federal and Commonwealth guidance and authority, including guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Commonwealth public health authorities.
Under this policy, all Executive Branch employees are mandated to either complete the vaccination program or obtain an approved exemption accommodation.
All department and activity heads will require reasonable timelines for their employees to schedule and complete the COVID-19 vaccination regime, which means a two-shot inoculation.
He said employees that go through the vaccination program must provide their employer (through their direct supervisor or office personnel specialist) with a written document from the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. that states that they’ve completed the two shots of the vaccine. “Failure to provide this documentation may be grounds for adverse personnel action,” the governor said.
He said employees may obtain an approved exemption from the vaccination as an accommodation. Employees may request for a medical exception accommodation or a religious exemption accommodation.
He said a request by an employee for a medical exemption accommodation will be granted where the employee demonstrates a medical condition that makes it inadvisable for that employee to receive a vaccine, unless such an accommodation poses an undue hardship to the employer.
An employee asking for exemption on religious grounds will be asked to provide evidence such as a personal statement explaining the belief or a statement from a third-party demonstrating the employee’s sincerity of belief (example, a priest, pastor, a person well acquainted with employee) or other document validating or describing the specifics of the reason preventing the employee from receiving the vaccine.
Torres asked department and activity heads to engage in an interactive process to determine if a reasonable accommodation can be provided that does not create an undue hardship on their departments or activities and/or does not pose a threat to the health and safety of others in the workplace and/or to the employee.
Torres noted that if no reasonable accommodation is possible, then the agency may exclude the employee from the workplace. “Exclusion may ultimately mean termination,” the governor pointed out.
To request a medical or religious-based exemption accommodation, employee must notify his/her direct supervisor in writing along with any necessary supporting evidence.
“Once your department or activity head is aware of the need for an accommodation, the department or activity head will engage in an interactive process to identify possible accommodations,” he said.
Torres said employees may request an accommodation without fear of retaliation.
He directed all department and activity heads, supervisors, and personne specialists to keep any statements, documents, or other information obtained from an employee in relation to this directive confidential.