The University of Mississippi is complying with President Biden’s Executive Order “Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors” and requiring all university employees required to be vaccinated against COVID by Jan. 4. More information is here.
Will the university comply with the federal Executive Order on “Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors”?
In light of the action taken on Oct. 25 by the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning, the university will move swiftly to ensure compliance with the federal Executive Order on ‘Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors.’
How will the university comply with the federal Executive Order?
Based on the terms of the Order and consistent with other universities in Mississippi and elsewhere, the university will require all employees (including all graduate and undergraduate student employees) to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022. Accommodations will be provided to those who are not able to be vaccinated due to a disability or medical condition, or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.
How does this impact students?
The IHL Board kept in place its directive preventing COVID-19 vaccine mandates as a condition of enrollment. The vaccination requirement is a condition of employment at the university, including for student employees (hourly student workers, work-study students, and students paid on a stipend, both undergraduate and graduate students). Students who are not employed by the university are not required to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Why does the university have to comply with the Executive Order?
As a major research university, the University of Mississippi receives federal contracts from the U.S. government. At present, the university is performing work on more than $91 million in active federal contracts. President Biden’s Order requires all federal contractors, such as the university, to comply with the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force’s “COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors.” Losing this federal funding would require us to layoff large numbers of employees, eliminate programs and hinder our university’s contribution to important federal programs.
I’m employed by the university, but not as a federal contractor. Why do I have to comply?
The task force guidance requires all employees (including student employees) working on or in connection with a federal contract to be vaccinated, and also requires all employees working in a covered contractor workplace to be vaccinated. The definition of the covered contractor workplace as outlined in the task force guidance is broad and covers all buildings and spaces on campus.
How much time do I have to get vaccinated?
As of Nov. 8, employees are required to receive both shots of a two-dose vaccine, or one shot of a one-dose vaccine, by Jan. 4. We will continue to work with employees who have shown a good faith effort to become fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.
Is there updated guidance from the federal government about the Jan. 4 deadline?
Federal officials issued clarifying guidance that now permits the university to allow unvaccinated employees to continue to work after the Jan. 4 deadline “through a limited period of counseling and education.” Under the new guidance, employees do not need to be removed from the workplace unless these efforts result in “continued noncompliance.” Consistent with the latitude provided by the new guidance, university employees who are not fully vaccinated as of Jan. 4 will be allowed to continue working and not be placed on a leave of absence.
Unvaccinated employees and those employees who have not submitted proof of vaccination will be permitted to continue to work and remain on the payroll beyond Jan. 4, 2022, while the university continues to counsel and educate these employees on the need to get vaccinated. We will continue to work with employees who have demonstrated a good faith effort to become fully vaccinated.
Employees who have a pending accommodation request as of Jan. 4 will be allowed to continue working until review of their request is completed. If an accommodation request is denied, the employee will be given a reasonable period of time to act promptly and become fully vaccinated.
How do I submit my vaccination record?
Employees must provide the university with proof that they have been fully vaccinated. The vaccination record must be submitted by the end of day Dec. 3. The vaccination record must include verification of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Employees should not submit the record until the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine has been administered.
- Link to submit vaccination record: https://forms.olemiss.edu/vaccination-record
- Steps for uploading your vaccinated health record: https://hr.olemiss.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/93/UploadingVacRecord.pdf
You must submit a picture of your vaccine card, no matter where you were vaccinated. The submission portal is secure and confidential. The document will be handled as sensitive and confidential and will not be intermingled with Employee Health records. The vaccination record will be reviewed for legibility and employees will be alerted via olemiss.edu email if the image is deemed invalid.
If you cannot recall your single-sign on login information, visit the IT Helpdesk at 100 Weir Hall with a picture ID.
If you receive an error message reading “Vaccination documentation required” when you try to submit an image of your vaccine card, your image may be too large. If using an iPhone, adjust your camera settings by going to Settings > Camera > Format and checking the “High Efficiency” option before taking a new photo. If using an Android phone, go to Camera > Settings (gear icon in top left corner) > Save options under the Pictures section and enable the HEIF pictures option before taking a new photo.
If you need a replacement vaccination card, please visit the MS State Department of Health website and login to or create an account with MyIR (My Immunization Records) to print your immunization record.
How can I request a medical or religious exemption?
To prevent delays in processing requests for medical or religious exemptions, and to enable the university to be in compliance with the Executive Order, requests for an exemption must be filed by Dec. 3, 2021. The submission portal for these exemption requests is secure and confidential. Documents will be handled as sensitive and confidential. If you prefer, instead of uploading, you can print the form, complete it, and hand deliver it to EORC, 120 Lester Hall.
Requests for medical exemptions from being vaccinated for COVID-19 will be evaluated by a designated panel, in order to evaluate whether the employee’s request meets the requirements to be exempt from the vaccine requirement. Medical exemptions will be evaluated based on medical considerations. In accordance with Executive Order guidance, requests will be handled according to the same process as a disability accommodation, and evaluated and decided under applicable legal standards for reasonable accommodation requests absent undue hardship to the University.
- UM COVID Medical Exemption Request Form
- Once completed by you and your health care provider, it can be submitted using the university’s secure Box folder system at this link: Box File Upload for Exemption Form.
A request for a religious exemption is a request to be exempt from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement on the basis of a religious belief. Requests will be considered and decided by a panel of decision-makers that is coordinated by the University of Mississippi’s Equal Opportunity and Regulatory Compliance (EORC) office. To be eligible for a possible exemption, you must first establish that your request for an exemption is based upon a sincerely held belief that is religious in nature. An exemption is based on whether the request meets the requirements to be exempt from the vaccine requirements, and will not be granted if the reasons are based upon personal preference, concerns about the possible effects of the vaccine, or political opinions.
- UM COVID Religious Exemption Request Form
- Once you have completed the form, it can be submitted using the university’s secure Box folder system. Follow this link: Box File Upload for Exemption Form.
How will the university manage employees who request an accommodation or who do not comply with the Executive Order?
- Those who have not provided the required proof of vaccination by Jan. 4, or who have not received an approved accommodation for the reasons cited above, will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence until they provide proof of vaccination.
- Employees who have a timely filed pending accommodation request as of Dec. 3 will be placed on paid leave pending resolution of their request.
- Employees who have not provided proof of vaccination or have not received an accommodation by Jan. 4, 2022 (unless the request is still pending review) may be separated from employment.
Where can I get vaccinated to comply with the Executive Order?
- Vaccines are widely available in Oxford from multiple providers. You can locate providers at gov. Any fees associated with COVID vaccination are covered by insurance.
- The university is offering free COVID-19 vaccines at clinics on Oct. 28, 29, and Nov. 2, 3, 9, 17, 19 and 30. These vaccines are offered for free to all faculty, staff, and students. Visit the university’s coronavirus vaccination page for information on clinic dates and times.
- University Health Center Pharmacy on the Oxford campus offers free Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines any weekday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on a walk-up basis.
With the vaccine mandated by the Executive Order, can supervisors ask employees if they have been vaccinated or if they have requested an accommodation?
Supervisors are encouraged to talk with their employees to a) ensure that they are aware of the mandate, b) to reinforce the employees’ value and importance to the university, and c) to offer to help direct them to resources or questions if they have questions about the vaccines.
Employees will submit their vaccination records electronically to a central location. Employees seeking an accommodation will submit their accommodation requests to a different location. The link to these locations will be available no later than Monday, Nov, 1. Accommodation decisions will be made by a committee, and not by individual supervisors. Reports will be issued to supervisors as to which employees have submitted proof of vaccination, not submitted proof of vaccination, and which employees have been issued an accommodation so that supervisors they can plan for staffing needs.
If I request an accommodation and it is denied, how will I meet the deadline to get vaccinated?
Employees who request an accommodation will be given a reasonable period of time to promptly become fully vaccinated if their request is denied.
Does the requirement to be vaccinated against COVID by January 4th apply to remote workers, including out of state workers?
Employees working on or in connection with a federal contract are required to be vaccinated regardless of whether they work on campus or in a remote location. Other employees working remotely must be vaccinated if they may ever come to campus (either voluntarily or as a requirement of their job).
Should I decide to resign, will I receive payment for personal leave upon separation of employment?
Yes, upon separation of employment, employees will receive payment for their accrued personal leave, up to a maximum of 240 hours. This is referred to as terminal leave pay. Terminal leave pay will be processed the pay period after the last payroll in which compensation is paid. The payment will be received via the same method as your regular paycheck (direct deposit or check). This payment is subject to tax withholding and state retirement contributions.
- Public Employees’ Retirement System of MS (PERS) participants: After processing the terminal leave payment limited to 240 hours, the remaining balance of your personal and major medical leave will be submitted to PERS and be applied to your retirement account as additional months of service credit.
- Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) participants: After payment of terminal leave pay limited to 240 hours, the remaining balance of personal leave and major medical will be forfeited.
What does it mean to be fully vaccinated to comply with the Executive Order?
An individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a 2-shot series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as the J&J/Janssen vaccine.
I’m pregnant. Can I delay vaccination due to pregnancy?
The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to become pregnant now, or trying to become pregnant in the future. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommend that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, a covered contractor may allow a covered contractor employee to delay vaccination based on the contractor employee’s particular medical circumstances, consistent with the covered contractor’s process for reviewing delay requests.
Does the mandate apply to employees of the regional campuses?
Yes, all university employees must comply with the mandate.
Does the mandate apply to third party vendors and contractors who come on campus?
Employees of third party vendors and contractors, who are not being paid with funds from a UM federal contract, are not required by the university to be vaccinated. Third party vendors and contractors are required to follow the vaccination requirements of their employers. Third party vendors and contractors may be subject to other COVID safety precautions such as masking and physical distancing.
Is the university allowed to ask my vaccination status? I thought that is protected by HIPAA?
The HIPAA law does not prohibit any person (e.g., an individual or an entity such as a business), including HIPAA covered entities and business associates, from asking whether an individual has received a particular vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines.
Does it cost anything to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine is free for both insured and uninsured people.
Do I need to take leave to get vaccinated?
All employees will be paid for time taken to receive vaccinations administered on campus. For offsite vaccinations, employees are to work with their managers to schedule an appropriate time that is least disruptive to the work day. Up to two hours of administrative leave is available for non-exempt/hourly employees receiving the vaccine offsite when it cannot be scheduled before or after work or during a lunch break.
Will the university provide sick leave if I get the vaccine and become sick?
Any illness that results from receiving the vaccine will be handled like any other illness that might affect the employee’s ability to report to work. For example, full-time, benefit-eligible employees accrue sick leave. Employees may use sick leave if they become ill from getting the vaccine. (Note that just like other illnesses, illness due to the vaccine is subject to the first-day is personal leave provision of our sick leave policy.) Employees who do not have accrued sick leave will be treated in the same way they would if they became ill due to any other illness.