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Lankford Wants Answers From Biden Administration On Exemptions from Vaccine Mandate

WASHINGTON, DC  – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Shalanda Young to seek answers on guidance to agencies providing employees the opportunity to seek both medical and religious accommodations under the vaccine mandate. The letter follows an announcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that it would suspend the implementation and enforcement of Biden’s vaccine mandate for private employees.

Lankford wrote in the letter, “My office has been inundated with communications from concerned Federal employees, contractors, and members of the armed services who do not believe they have not been free to pursue these legally required accommodations. Some believe they have not been adequately consulted on how to seek an accommodation, some believe that they will be retaliated against if they seek an accommodation, and others have sought an accommodation and feel that they are being retaliated against currently.”

The letter continued, “These concerns raise grave questions about the Task Force’s preparation and promulgation of these policies, particularly whether it consulted subject matter experts like the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Please respond to the following questions no later than 6 pm, November 19, 2021.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission mediates complaints made by employees against both private and public sector employers. An employee may pursue a claim of discrimination, including on the basis of religion.

You can view the text of the letter HERE and below.

Dear Ms. Young:

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force was created to stop the spread of COVID-19, to protect the Federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of government services. On September 9, 2021, President Biden mandated that all executive branch employees become fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021, or else face formal discipline up to and including removal from Federal employment. The Task Force later issued guidance to agencies indicating that the disciplinary process could begin as early as November 9 for employees who refused to receive the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. By law, employers are required to provide employees the opportunity to seek both medical accommodation and religious exemptions with regard to the vaccine mandate. 

My office has been inundated with communications from concerned Federal employees, contractors, and members of the armed services who do not believe they have been free to pursue these legally required accommodations. Some believe they have not been adequately consulted on how to seek an accommodation, some believe that they will be retaliated against if they seek an accommodation, and others have sought an accommodation and feel that they are being retaliated against currently. In fact, the templates produced by the Task Force for employees to seek an accommodation encourage religious harassment and seemed designed to shame or dissuade employees from submitting them. 

Widespread fear of retaliation by employees for even seeking a legally required accommodation is unacceptable and antithetical to our nation’s fundamental freedoms. However that is the reality of the environment the Task Force has created; it is either the result of a failure of leadership, or it is the intended result of an Administration which has sought to undermine Americans’ freedom of conscience.

These concerns raise grave questions about the Task Force’s preparation and promulgation of these policies, particularly whether it consulted subject matter experts like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Please respond to the following questions no later than 6 pm, November 19, 2021:

  1. Was the EEOC involved in developing and issuing Executive Orders 14042 and 14043 creating the vaccine mandates for Federal employees and contractors?
  2. Did the Task Force include the EEOC in forming guidance to agencies on the implementation of the vaccine mandates with regard to legally required religious and medical accommodations as well as preventing retaliation? 
  3. Did the EEOC sign off on the religious and medical accommodation guidance forms provided to Federal agencies?
  4. Has the Task Force encouraged agencies to consult the EEOC with regard to legally required accommodations and retaliation as they implement the mandate?
  5. Is the Task Force providing agencies, federal employees, and federal contractors with information regarding an employee’s right to seek a remedy through the EEOC process for allegations of retaliation or the wrongful denial of a religious or medical accommodation request? 

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