(Office of the Governor) — Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on Friday issued the following directive to all executive branch department and activity heads:
The Covid-19 pandemic is a global public health emergency and a substantial threat to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and global population. In response to the pandemic and in the interest of mitigating the spread of the virus, and facilitating a healthy and safe work environment, all employees of the executive branch of the CNMI government are mandated to receive the Covid-19 vaccination.
Consistent with the duty to provide and maintain a workplace free of recognized hazards, this policy is adopted to safeguard the health and well-being of employees and their families, patrons, clients, visitors, others who spend time in our facilities, and the community, from the risks associated with Covid-19. This policy is intended to comply with applicable federal and commonwealth guidance and authority, including guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and Commonwealth public health authorities.
This policy applies only to employees of the Executive Branch including semi-autonomous agencies and entities. This policy does not apply to other branches of government and autonomous agencies and entities. Other branches of government, and autonomous agencies and entities, including the Commonwealth Ports Authority and the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, are encouraged to respond, likewise, to the present situation.
All employees of the executive branch of the CNMI government are mandated to either (1) complete the Covid-19 vaccination program or (2) obtain an approved exemption accommodation. All department and activity heads will require prompt but reasonable timelines for employees under their charge to schedule and complete the Covid-19 vaccination regime. All department and activity heads shall confirm to my office that all of the employees under their charge have completed the vaccination program or have obtained an approved exemption.
Employees that go through the vaccination program must provide their employer (through their direct supervisor or office personnel specialist) written documentation provided by the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation that verifies their receipt of both doses of the vaccination. Failure to provide this documentation may be grounds for adverse personnel action.
Employees may obtain an approved exemption from the vaccination as an accommodation. Employees may request for a medical exception accommodation or a religious exemption accommodation.
A request by an employee for a medical exemption accommodation will be granted where the employee demonstrates a medical condition that makes it inadvisable for that employee to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, unless such an accommodation poses an undue hardship to the Commonwealth. An employee requesting this exemption must provide documentation from the employee’s health care provider on the nature of the medical condition and how the condition makes it unsafe for the employee to receive any or all of the Covid-19 vaccines.
A request by an employee for a religious exemption accommodation may be granted where the employee demonstrates that due to a sincerely held religious belief or practice, the employee cannot take the Covid-19 vaccine. Under such circumstances, the employer will provide reasonable accommodation to the employee unless doing so would pose an undue hardship to the employer. An employee requesting this exemption must provide evidence such as a personal statement explaining the belief or a statement from a third-party demonstrating the employee’s sincerity of belief (examples: priest, pastor, person well acquainted with employee) or other document validating or describing the specifics of the reason preventing the employee from receiving the vaccine.
Department and activity heads should engage in an interactive process to determine if a reasonable accommodation can be provided that does not create an undue hardship on their respective departments or activities and/or does not pose a direct threat to the health or safety or others in the workplace and/or to the employee. Please note that if no reasonable accommodation is possible, then the agency may exclude the employee from the workplace. Exclusion may ultimately mean termination.
To request a medical or religious based exemption accommodation, please notify your direct supervisor in writing along with any necessary supporting evidence. Once your department or activity head is aware of the need for an accommodation, the department or activity will engage in an interactive process to identify possible accommodations. Employees may request an accommodation without fear of retaliation.
All department and activity heads, supervisors and personnel specialists shall keep any statements, documents, or other information obtained from an employee in relation to this directive confidential consistent with federal and Commonwealth law and regulation.