Sep 30, 2021

Sept 30 - Vaccine Mandate Update with Exemption Guidance

Yesterday, NAGE again sat down with the Commonwealth to discuss all the concerns brought forward regarding the Governor’s Vaccination Mandate. Management was able to provide us with figures on attestations thus far, showing that somewhat over 50% of NAGE Executive Branch members have filed the required attestation.. We were also given figures on the fairly small number of requests for exemptions that have been filed to date. We will continue asking for these figures as well as figures on exemptions that have been applied for, approved, and denied. 
NAGE has repeatedly pressed the state negotiators for information about the standards applied in judging requests for exemptions on medical and religious grounds. The Commonwealth has been unable to give us any clear guidance regarding the criteria that will be used. Instead, they have stated that exemptions will be decided based on the law and the Governor’s Executive Order. We made a request that we be provided redacted copies of the exemption decisions that have been rendered to date in the hope that it will shed some light on the criteria being employed.  The state appeared reluctant to provide the information and we informed them that wer were clearly entitled to it under the law. We also raised other issues with HRD about the exemption process and around the time taken for a response on exemptions and requested that HRD add ADA coordinators to large agencies to entertain exemptions in a timely manner. 
On a more positive note, we were able to secure their agreement that employee on long-term leaves of absence will not be required to comply with the mandate until just prior to their return to work.     We will be pressing them to reduce to writing this commitment and several others they have made so far.
Since the Baker administration remains insistent that they will unilaterally begin disciplining unvaccinated employees on October 17th, regardless of the status of our negotiations, we want to reiterate the advice we posted several days ago. We advise any employees who are determined not to be vaccinated that securing a medical or religious exemption will likely be the last chance you will have to avoid being disciplined and, ultimately, terminated. While we are determined to forcefully represent any such employees in the grievance/arbitration process and likely Charges of Prohibited Practice, you need to know that that litigation will take place considerably after discipline and discharge are imposed. Please see guidance on Vaccine Compliance from HRD HERE.  
In the absence of clear guidance from the Commonwealth, we urge any of you who are determined not to be vaccinated to apply now for exemptions if you have any credible argument to make that you qualify for either or both. It goes without saying that while you should make the most robust case you can for an exemption, you must be completely truthful in anything you say or write. The fact that your reasons may not fit the traditional mold should not deter you from applying.    
Please note that the deadline for applying for an exemption is October 8th. 
Massachusetts’ COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Program has been extended through the work of legislators and advocacy from NAGE. Please read more about the COVID Emergency Sick Leave Program HERE
We will continue to update you as events unfold. 

You can find our previous updates on Baker's Vaccine Mandate linked below.

Sept 28 - Vaccine Mandate Update with Exepmtion Guidance 
Sept 24 - Update on Baker Vaccine Mandate 
Sept 9 - Vaccine Mandate Update
Sept 2- - Vaccine Mandate Questions Answered
Aug 20 - NAGE Files Demand to Bargain  

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile. - Albert Einstein
NAGE HEADQUARTERS 159 Burgin Parkway
Quincy, MA 02169
Main Phone: (617)376-0220
Main Fax: (617)984-5695
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