Feds granted clear religious exemption that waives worker’s right to a paycheck

The federal government has granted a clear exemption to exempt some of its workers from having to work without pay. “To be clear, furloughed employees who show up for work this week without completing…

Feds granted clear religious exemption that waives worker’s right to a paycheck

The federal government has granted a clear exemption to exempt some of its workers from having to work without pay.

“To be clear, furloughed employees who show up for work this week without completing a required vaccine, or who are not vaccinated, will be denied payments, including for self-employment,” a memo to federal employees said on Thursday. “We will also delay spending of any other savings or accumulated pay to deal with unforeseen expenses, including unpaid personal leave for furloughed employees. Employees requiring unpaid personal leave will need to use up any additional savings now so that any additional money available during the pendency of the shutdown will be used to pay FTEs in the future when the government reopens.”

The day after the failed government shutdown, White House officials asked the Office of Personnel Management to issue an exemption from rules requiring federal employees with unsubstantiated religious, moral or ethics objections to be provided exemptions.

Currently, someone can receive a religious exemption only if they have an accurate record of religious beliefs, which is not easy for people who are not regular churchgoers.

The new exemption grants religious exemptions to federal employees based on the employee’s spouse being covered by the federal vaccine program, and a failing mental health professional. Employees would have to show it is in their best interest to work without vaccination. A religious exemption would be required for unvaccinated spouses to stay on federal health insurance.

“The employee and sponsor must demonstrate, one, that such a nonvaccinated condition is in the employee’s best interest because vaccinations have been or will be provided to each spouse by the federal government through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program in order to mitigate the potential for increased health risks for the spouse; and two, that such a nonvaccinated condition is not well treated or controlled by the employee’s employer,” the memo said.

Federal employees covered by the federal vaccine program who can’t be vaccinated because of personal or religious beliefs do have recourse to medical exemptions. But they have to prove a medical condition has led to a vaccine refusal, said Ashley Meneses, a spokeswoman for the Office of Personnel Management.

The Obama administration tried to implement a policy offering religious exemptions only, but those attempts were shut down by a lawsuit by the Thomas More Law Center.

“While some employees may have a valid religious or moral objection to vaccines, OPM does not rule on such issues,” the new policy memo said. “Nonfederally employed employees that lack documentation for a personal exemption for immunization from a federal vaccine may be eligible for a medical exemption through a process that OPM has developed and which is similar to the medical exemption process currently in place for federally employed employees.”

That medical process comes with additional documents, like a medical history, but the documents would not be made public.

“Religious and moral exemptions to mandatory immunizations for other federal employees are offered, but those exemptions are available in confidence without making the documentation available,” OPM said.

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