Some UND employees must comply with federal vaccine mandate

Dear members of the campus community,

In September, President Biden issued an executive order mandating that employees of federal contractors be vaccinated for COVID-19. Subsequent guidance from the federal task force offered additional details.

Because UND is a federal contractor, we must comply with the executive order and task force requirements. Given the uncertainty in the legal and political landscape, as well as recent easing of key elements of the task force guidance, UND will take a deliberate and steady approach to comply with the mandate.

Policy/legal landscape

Let me address several elements of the legal and political landscape. The Attorney General’s office offered the North Dakota University System its interpretation of the federal guidance and advised widespread implementation of the vaccine mandate on our campuses. The State Board of Higher Education also weighed in, encouraging campuses to take reasonable steps to comply with the federal mandate. Soon after, the North Dakota Attorney General joined a multi-state lawsuit to block the federal vaccine mandate.

Nationally, we have seen a number of lawsuits challenging the federal mandate. Last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals put a temporary hold on one of the federal vaccination mandates in response to a multi-state lawsuit. Although this is not the federal mandate that is impacting UND, it sends a signal about the uncertainty of the balance between federal and state authority.

Implementation at UND

Before finalizing our campus strategy, we had been awaiting the outcome of the State Legislature’s special session last week. In the session, they considered bills that would limit an employer’s ability to ask about an employee’s vaccination status. The legislature approved such limits but offered exemptions for institutions of higher education and for organizations facing the federal vaccination mandate. Thus, we see forces pushing in various directions on this issue, but with the State Legislature’s decision, we must now begin sensibly implementing the vaccination requirements for employees at UND.

In the coming weeks, UND will sign several federal contracts and in due time we will have dozens more. Consequently, we will begin identifying UND employees required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or apply for a medical or religious exemption. If you are identified as such, you will receive an email from Human Resources with a deadline for complying with the vaccination mandate. The deadlines for vaccine requirements at UND will partially depend upon the renewal date of existing contracts or the award date of new contracts. This notification will also include links to our system to submit verification of vaccination status and links to the religious and medical exemption forms. Supervisors will also receive an email from HR, providing them with information on working with employees who are impacted by the mandate.

Thanks and important resources

UND has long encouraged vaccinations to protect you, your co-workers, and your community, and we believe that many, if not most, UND employees have already been vaccinated. Thank you for doing your part in protecting yourself and those around you.

If you have not yet been vaccinated for COVID-19, and are not pursuing a religious or disability exemption, I encourage you get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are available by appointment at UND Student Health Services, 777.4500, and through community partners. There is no charge. More information is available on the UND COVID-19 vaccine website.  UND is also working with partners to provide additional access to vaccines and will send out information as soon as possible.

Finally, a Town Hall has been set for noon on Thursday, Dec. 2, to answer your questions about the vaccine mandate. Information is below.

Thank you for your understanding and patience as together we work to meet this challenge. Your health and well-being are important to us.

Andrew P. Armacost
President, University of North Dakota