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The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today announced that after three years, it has formally ended its COVID-19 Taskforce. The decision comes as the Biden administration officially rescinded the federal government's COVID-19 health emergency declaration.
Early in the pandemic, the number of health and safety-related disclosures filed with OSC spiked along with related complaints of retaliation. In March 2020, OSC established an internal COVID-19 Taskforce to enhance communication across OSC's multiple units handling these cases. This coordinated effort ensured the swift assessment of COVID-related disclosures and rapid referral for investigation in appropriate cases.
The taskforce achieved outsized results for civil servants facing retaliation during the pandemic by working with agencies to negotiate accommodations for employees. Many of these timely “course corrections" were instrumental in helping federal employees, and likely saved lives. For example:
Beginning in the fall of 2021, the taskforce's focus shifted to issues related to the federal employee COVID-19 vaccination requirement, for which OSC responded to questions from the U.S. Department of Justice relevant to ongoing litigation.
“I am very proud of the great work of the taskforce and consider it to be one of OSC's top accomplishments during my tenure," said Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner. “OSC will continue to open new COVID cases, but under our normal process. It has been an honor to lead OSC through this unprecedented pandemic and to witness such a commitment to public service from everyone on the COVID-19 Taskforce."