November 1, 2021
Q: We have seen the words “exemption” and “ exception” used in connection with the vaccine mandate. Would you explain the difference between the two?
A: Functionally, there’s no real difference – employees are asking for the reasonable accommodation of an exemption to vaccination mandate or an exception to the rule that employees must be vaccinated. It’s two different ways of addressing the same issue.
Q: If someone has submitted a vaccine exemption request and a decision is not made close to or after the deadline to get vaccinated for COVID-19, does the exemption request relieve the Federal employee from meeting the vaccine deadline until a decision has been made?
A: Yes, our understanding based on recent Safer federal Workforce Task Force guidance is that if an employee has a pending reasonable accommodation request for disability or religious exemption, the vaccine deadline is extended. Of course, in the interim, it is appropriate to continue safety protocols such as masking, distancing, teleworking, and testing.
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