Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, reintroduced the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act on July 14, which requires government agencies to establish COVID-19 safety plans to protect Federal workers returning to the office.
The House passed an earlier version of the legislation. The House Oversight and Reform Committee approved it on May 13, after Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., reintroduced it in February. The bill was named after a constituent of Rep. Connolly’s who died due to coronavirus complications. In a letter to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Connolly pointed to the legislation, which gives Federal workers more information about office-place safety plans. He urged OPM “to place the safety of our dedicated Federal and contractor personnel at the forefront” of any discussions on returning to traditional work environments.
“Until this bill passes Congress and is signed into law by President Biden, I urge OPM to ensure that agencies put appropriate safety plans in place as they return their employees to Federal facilities,” Connolly wrote.
And as the Delta variant of the coronavirus surges, the group of Democratic senators reintroduced an updated version of the legislation to protect Federal employees and contractors better as they return to the workplace.
The bill requires that all safety plans include coronavirus testing for Federal employees and contractors, contact tracing and notification processes for suspected positive cases, vaccine administration, cleaning protocols, personal protective equipment provided by the agency, methods to protect employees required to travel, contingency plans for a possible surge in cases, and the information to contact inspector generals to report any issues.
This version of the bill states that safety plans must include a description of protocols on whether employees who are required to be physically present must be fully vaccinated. And if they are allowed to take leave to get the vaccine, and if they have severe side-effects as a result. The bill also requires that six months after the plans are posted, inspectors general submit a report to the House Oversight and Reform and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees on how their agencies complied with the requirements.
However, it is unclear how or if these safety plans will change anything for Federal employees who have returned to the workplace.