Will feds get The Vaccine — or sue instead?

The pandemic is like the worst house guest ever. It departs only after rendering its hosts haggard. At last it looked like things might get back to normal. But no. The guest reaches the end of your block, turns around, and comes back to visit for Lord-knows-how-long. And you’d just squeegeed the shower door and vacuumed.

That’s kind of where the nation finds itself. A fresh vocabulary comes with what you might call the echo pandemic. Breakout infections. Delta variant. Vaccine mandates.

Among the big national questions now: whether employers can require vaccinations as a matter of employees keeping their jobs. Federal employees have gotten the mandate from their employer. New York State already imposed a vaccine mandate on its employees, who otherwise must undergo weekly testing. Earlier, the Department of Veterans Affairs ordered all medical personnel to become vaccinated.

Dealing with COVID has become more complicated. Although not everyone followed them, guidelines a year ago basically kept everyone masked nearly everywhere, with people staying away from one another. Now people face an ever-shifting matrix of guidelines. Variables include whether you’re vaccinated, whether vaccinated people can carry and transmit the disease even if they don’t get sick, and whether the vaccines work against emerging strains. Should you mask indoors? Outdoors? Should you go anywhere? Which vaccines are best? Do people need booster shots? The list runs on and on. People are mostly confused, and tuning out much of it.

Mandatory vaccination orders resemble in some ways a latter day non-smoking mandate. When do personal choices cease to be purely personal but instead affect others? We’re not willing to outlaw smoking, so the societal compromise dictates no smoking in the office. Need a drag? Go outside and stand around the cigarette urn 50 feet from the door.

But the analogy frays when it comes to vaccination. Light up indoors, and the smoke is there. As for the virus, not all the unvaccinated will carry COVID or get sick. Some of the vaccinated might carry the virus and give it to someone else. Unlike smoke, you can’t see or smell a virus.

In an interview, attorney Dan Meyer, the managing partner of the law firm Tully Rinckey, pointed out there’s a reason half the nation remains unvaccinated. Some of that half don’t want to be. Their refusal might be for religion. Maybe they have some other medical condition that makes vaccines dangerous to them. They might not trust vaccines because the products haven’t had the full FDA vetting. A subset of people suspect the vaccines are made of rat poison or gorilla perspiration. Something escaped the Facebook censors. Still, others don’t believe the virus is all that dangerous to most people in the first place.

Meyer said there’s no Constitutional reason the government can’t compel employees to vaccinate. But he said he expects challenges on religious grounds or citing the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. That law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability or pre-existing condition. Conditions, Meyers said, include age or a chronic weight challenge. Employees would have to document that there conditions make them susceptible to virus exposure or to vaccination ill effects. The agency would have to provide reasonable accommodation — like telework.

More difficult will be cases of perfectly healthy people who simply aren’t vaccinated. “The physically fit person who is a-religious,” Meyer said, “is going to be very hard to protect.”

So why not just drop into CVS and get the darn vaccine, for Pete’s sake? That brings us to those whom Meyer described as having “a reasonable belief in the unsafe nature of the vaccine.” Not entitled to dispensation based on disability — does the government fire them?

The administration won’t fire people who don’t get vaccinated. Thus the frequent testing requirement. Or telework. If telework ends up the domain primarily of the unvaccinated, though, a strange and unhealthy office dynamic would develop. Teleworkers would comprise a virtual lepers’ island, stigmatized slice of the workforce. Similarly, having the unvaccinated slice of the workforce regularly report to some internal clinic to have their noses swabbed — that, too would be strange.

A nice, orderly return to the office? Forget about it. Ladies and gentlemen, our long national nightmare is not over. Get set for a new phase in the weirdness.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

With well over 800 unique languages, Papua New Guinea has far more languages used than any other nation. Because of its dense rainforest and tough terrains, many groups in the country have remained isolated and able to preserve their unique dialects.

Source: Britannica

Related Stories

    (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)FILE - In this March 26, 2021, file photo a member of the Philadelphia Fire Department prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site setup in Philadelphia. U.S. health officials say Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine may pose a “small possible risk” of a potentially dangerous neurological reaction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday, July 12 that it has received reports of 100 people who got the shot developing an immune system disorder that can causes muscle weakness and occasionally paralysis.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

    Federal employees must attest to vaccination or submit to testing, per new Biden policy

    Read more
    Tully Rinckey PLLCDan Meyer, managing partner at the law firm Tully Rinckey PLLC in Washington, DC.

    What would happen to the federal employees who resist a vaccine mandate?

    Read more
    Amelia Brust/Federal News Network

    Mask requirements return for federal employees, contractors in light of new guidance

    Read more

Comments

Your Turn with Mike Causey

WEDNESDAYS at 10 A.M.

Learn about everything from pay, benefits and retirement, to buyouts, COLAs and pay freezes. Call the show live Wednesdays from 10-11 a.m. at 202-465-3080 with your questions. Dial 605-562-0264 to listen live from any phone. Follow Mike on Twitter and send him an email with your questions and comments. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Podcast One.

Sign up for breaking news alerts

THRIFT SAVINGS PLAN TICKER

Sep 23, 2021 Close Change YTD*
L Income 23.2309 0.0506 4.43%
L 2025 12.0462 0.0547 8.33%
L 2030 42.6536 0.2591 10.54%
L 2035 12.8283 0.0853 11.50%
L 2040 48.6127 0.3527 12.46%
L 2045 13.3343 0.1035 13.28%
L 2050 29.2474 0.2426 14.12%
L 2055 14.4235 0.1515 17.18%
L 2060 14.4234 0.1514 17.18%
L 2065 14.4234 0.1514 17.18%
G Fund 16.6681 0.0006 0.88%
F Fund 21.0203 -0.1166 -0.55%
C Fund 66.9143 0.8046 21.56%
S Fund 85.8330 1.2015 16.31%
I Fund 39.5371 0.2834 11.70%
Closing price updated at approx 6pm ET each business day. More at tsp.gov
* YTD data is updated on the last day of the month.