The USPS is looking for the capability to collect COVID-19 vaccination and test data from the workforce
The USPS is looking for the capability to collect COVID-19 vaccination and test data from the workforce

The USPS is looking for the capability to collect COVID-19 vaccination and test data from the workforce

The postal service lays the groundwork for tracking vaccination and test status of its workforce in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic or any future public health emergency.

However, the USPS states that it only gives notice as it prepares for “potential future preparedness” and that it is not currently updating its COVID-19 vaccine or test requirements, nor does it seek to collect vaccination status data for its workforce.

ONE Supreme Court ruling last month rejected the Biden administration’s mandate to large employers, including the USPS, to ensure that their workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or to require non-vaccinated employees to wear face masks and be subject to weekly COVID-19 tests.

However, the USPS appears reluctant to rule out the possibility that it may eventually face vaccination or test requirements.

Federal Register announcement released Wednesday, said it seeks to change its system of records “to track and record vaccination status or employee certification instead of acceptable evidence of vaccination status, as appropriate, related to an ongoing pathogenic public health crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The USPS said in the announcement that it is looking to revise its emergency management records “to facilitate effective preparedness and response to potential future public health crises and other emergencies that may affect postal workers and work environment operations.”

The USPS stated in its explanatory memorandum to the proposed amendment that the emergence of COVID-19 in early 2020 “identified the need for [a] robust set of policies and practices to ensure business continuity and employee safety in the midst of an emergency, while protecting individual privacy. “

USPS spokeswoman Darlene Casey told the Federal News Network on Wednesday that “the Postal Service is not updating its COVID-19 vaccine or test requirements as part of this announcement, nor are we seeking to collect vaccination status information for our employees.”

“We have taken steps to update our registration systems to prepare for potential future preparedness, and we continue to review and evaluate OSHA’s ongoing regulatory process,” Casey said.

The USPS announcement is an interesting development for the agency, which was subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s now defunct Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), and warned that meeting these requirements could potentially result in a “dramatic loss of staff.”

Last month, the Supreme Court dropped OSHA’s vaccination and testing requirements for large companies with more than 100 employees. However, the court allowed the Biden administration to continue with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the United States

The USPS is not covered by the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for the federal workforce, which has also encountered some legal challenges. A Texas-based federal judge on Jan. 21. blocked the administration from enforcing this mandate.

Recently, a federal Court of Appeals last week refused for the time being to overturn the federal court’s injunction on the vaccine mandate for the federal workforce.

Biden administration through its Safer Federal Workforce Task Forcehas interpreted that the decision of the Texas Federal Court does not prevent agencies from collecting information on the vaccination status of their employees – even though these agencies are currently unable to enforce the mandate.

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, i updated guide on January 24thsaid agencies covered by President Joe Biden’s executive order signed in September last year “may continue to require and receive the submission of vaccination information and documentation” from federal employees and potential employees who have received a job offer.

Despite these recent developments, the USPS appears to be preparing to be able to collect COVID-19-related information from its employees if it may eventually face vaccination or testing requirements.

The Ministry of Labor withdrew, following the Supreme Court’s decision, OSHA’s vaccine and testing mandate for large employers “as an enforcer of temporary emergency standards.”

But as GovExec first reported last monthLabor specified that ETS still remains on the table as a proposed rule that is still active as part of the rule design.

“Although OSHA withdraws vaccination and testing ETS as an enforcer temporary emergency standard, OSHA does not withdraw ETS to the extent it serves as a proposed rule” under the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act, the agency wrote in a January 26. Federal Register Notice.

In addition to COVID-19 and “pathogenic public health crises”, the USPS also seeks to extend its definition of emergency events, as it relates to its system of records, to natural disasters, man-made disasters, terrorist acts and cyber-security incidents.

The USPS said these changes to its system of records will give the agency greater flexibility to prepare for and respond to a wide range of emergencies.

However, among the categories of individuals affected by this proposed change, the USPS said that its registration system will cover “Postal service personnel who provide the postal service with acceptable proof of COVID-19 vaccination status or, alternatively, weekly COVID-19 test results (or test results before returning to physical postal facilities or workplaces). “

In its Communication, the USPS also proposes to collect information from its employees through a software application, including employee identification numbers, vaccination status, vaccination date, photos showing evidence of vaccine, vaccine exemption status, vaccine exemption reason and COVID-19 test results status.

The proposed changes to the USPS registration system will “allow an employee to register their COVID-19 vaccination status and COVID-19 test status through mobile and web-based applications.”

The USPS also proposes to disclose COVID-19 vaccine documentation, any test results or “work-related COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations” to OSHA.

The USPS said it sent the proposed changes to its system of records to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget for their evaluation, adding that it does not expect its amended system of records to have “any negative impact on individual privacy.” “

1974 Privacy Act requires agencies to very clearly define any “routine use”; they intend to deal with the information in their registration systems about specific persons. That The Privacy Act also requires agencies to provide public notice of these changes through the Federal Registry.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision on OSHA’s vaccination and testing requirements for large employers, The USPS asked the agency for a 120-day temporary exemption from its vaccine and test requirements.

The USPS said in its letter to OSHA that it would be “almost impossible” to meet deadlines outlined in its ETS under normal circumstances, but found them particularly burdensome to meet in the high season, which runs from mid-October to January.

The USPS said compliance with the OSHA mandate “is likely to result in the loss of many employees”, either through workers leaving the agency or facing discipline for non-compliance.

The agency predicted that the biggest drop in staffing would occur among temporary staff hired to handle an increase in mail and parcels during the high season.

“While the impact on our service can be devastating at any time of the year, it requires the postal service to absorb what could inevitably be a dramatic loss of staff at a time when the labor market is extremely tight and in the midst of the postal service’s peak season. would have a potentially catastrophic impact on our ability to provide service to the American public when demand is at its peak, ”the USPS wrote.


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