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Pentagon releases punishments for civilian staff who refuse COVID-19 vaccine

U.S. Army Maj. Bielosa Aworh receives COVID-19 vaccine at Fort Bliss, Texas, Feb. 5, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Maxwell Bass)
October 22, 2021

The Department of Defense outlined a three-step enforcement plan that it will follow to remove civilian employees who refuse to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, according to a memo released on Monday.

All DOD civilian employees are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 22, “subject to exemptions as required by law.” All civilian employees must follow the directive, including foreign nationals employed by the DoD outside the United States and those who are engaged in full-time telework or remote work.   

Employees who are not full vaccinated and who have not received an exemption will be “subject to disciplinary measures, up to and including removal from the Federal service.”

“Progressive enforcement actions include, but are not limited to: a 5-day period of counseling and education; a short suspension without pay, of 14 days or less, with an appropriate notice period. Senior Executive Service members may only be suspended for more than 14 days; and removal from federal service for failing to follow a direct order,” the memo stated.

The guidance notes that individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a single-dose vaccine.

Civilian employees who are not fully vaccinated after the November 22 deadline will be required to comply with masking and physical distancing requirements. Weekly testing will also be required for employees who are not fully vaccinated after the deadline, including those who have medical or religious exemptions.

“DoD civilian employees may request an exemption on the basis of a medical condition or circumstance or a sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance. Exemptions will be granted in limited circumstance and only where legally required,” the memo stated.

“Further guidance on processing exemptions will be forthcoming from the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness,” the notice continued. “In the meantime, DoD components should take no action on any exemption requests received from DoD civilian employees.”

Elsewhere in the United States military, the Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall on Wednesday thanked service members who have complied with the department’s vaccine mandate and warned those refusing the vaccines that they could face a range of consequences including “referring court-martial charges.”

The press release then states, “Should a service member refuse to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, commanders retain the full range of disciplinary options available to them under law and policy, some of which includes issuing administrative paperwork, imposing nonjudicial punishment, or referring court-martial charges.”

The Navy previously revealed last week it would begin discharging sailors refusing vaccines without a waiver.