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Postal Service requests temporary exemption from Biden's vaccine rule

An agency spokesperson said a waiver would "ensure that its ability to deliver mail and packages is not hindered."
Image: Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America
A U.S. Postal Service worker wears a mask and gloves amidst the coronavirus pandemic, in Santa Monica, Calif., on April 13, 2020.Mario Tama / Getty Images file

The Postal Service is seeking a temporary exemption from President Joe Biden's vaccine-or-testing mandate, arguing a waiver would prevent major disruptions to mail delivery.

The request comes just days before the Biden administration's rule is slated to take effect, and as the highly transmissible omicron variant sidelines workers in various parts of the economy.

Deputy Postmaster General Douglas Tulino wrote in a Jan. 4 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that requiring Postal Service workers to comply with the new rules “is likely to result in the loss of many employees — either by employees leaving or being disciplined.”

The workplace rules issued by OSHA are scheduled to effect Jan. 10, but the agency has said it would not issue citations for violations until Feb. 9, or "so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard."

Darlene Casey, a spokesperson for the Postal Service, said Wednesday that the agency wants to continue using its existing Covid mitigation policies, and that a waiver would "ensure that its ability to deliver mail and packages is not hindered amid the current disruptions in the nation’s supply chain."

The Washington Post first reported the waiver request.

The Postal Service has nearly 650,000 employees at 30,000 locations across the country. Tulino noted in his letter that the agency has "only received a handful of citations" related to Covid, indicating that its safety protocols have "been extremely successful to date."

OSHA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Biden administration's vaccine rules are facing numerous legal challenges. The Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments this week on whether to block the mandate after business groups and GOP state attorneys general sued the federal government.

Tulino said in Tuesday's letter that if the rule "is upheld, the Postal Service will have to adjust to the impacts of implementation, and it accepts that."

"However, it is the timing that is particularly problematic," he added. "While the impact to our service could be devastating at any time of year, requiring the Postal Service to absorb what could inevitably be a dramatic loss of employees at a time when the labor market is extremely tight and in the middle of the Postal Service’s Peak Season would have a potentially catastrophic impact on our ability to provide service to the American public when demand is at its highest."