AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – Some employees at Savannah River Site claim SRS is denying religious exemption requests from the coronavirus vaccine.

The group says people are going to be laid off even though their contract allows for testing and religious exemptions.

The President rolled out the vaccine mandate plan over a month ago. Last week, the office of management and budget released new vaccine guidelines. Under them, federal workers are required to get their first shot within two weeks of an exemption request being denied. The office also made it clear that federal agencies can deny religious or medical exemptions if it is determined no other safety measurements are adequate.

SRS has released the following statement:

The health and safety of the Site workforce continues to be the priority of SRS leadership and we continue to utilize all mitigation control options available to ensure the safety of our workforce. Vaccines provide us with the most effective tool to help ensure a safe work environment and better protect us from serious illness due to the virus. The Pfizer vaccine is currently offered on Site at SRS and other vaccines are readily available throughout the community.

The Biden administration issued Executive Order 14042 on Sept. 9, 2021, which mandates the vaccination of Federal Employees, to include Federal Contractors.  Prior to the issuance of the Executive Order, prime contractors at SRS had already begun the process of mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.  The decision to mandate vaccination as a condition of employment was reached based on scientific evidence concerning the vaccines effectiveness and guidance from the CDC. Exceptions to the requirement, such as a medical condition or religious exemption that prevents vaccination, are considered on a case by case basis.

Deadlines for full vaccination for the Site workforce as mandated by the Biden Administration are as follows:

•             All Federal Employees                                                      Full Vaccination  by Nov. 22, 2021

•             All Federal Contractor Employees                                  Full Vaccination by Dec. 8, 2021

Self-determined deadlines for full vaccination by SRS Prime Contractors

o             Savannah River Nuclear Solutions              Full Vaccination by Nov. 30, 2021

o             Savannah River Remediation                       Full Vaccination by Nov. 30, 2021

o             Battelle Savannah River Alliance                 Full Vaccination by Nov. 30, 2021

South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan released the following statement regarding the issue:

“Last month, I sent a letter to Savannah River Nuclear Solutions urging them to reconsider their position on the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. I oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees at all levels, and no employee should be forced to choose between receiving the COVID-19 shot or losing their job. Imposing such a requirement infringes on an individual’s individual liberty and will inevitably cause staffing shortages in an already-understaffed workforce. Americans should have the freedom to decide if they receive the COVID-19 shot or not, and employers should respect this personal choice. It is heartbreaking that so many Americans, including employees at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, are losing their jobs due to imposing mandates. I am doing all I can to push back against forced vaccinations at the expense of an individual’s medical freedom.”

Representative Joe Wilson had this to say:

“Although many people, including myself, may be opposed to the Biden Administration announcement of a vaccine mandate for federal contractors and large businesses, these SRS contractors made the decision on their own accord. As a private entity, they possessed the legal right to create the guidelines for employment within their company. They encourage every employee who is hesitant to get vaccinated to consult with their personal doctor or other trusted healthcare providers. They have also expressed their willingness to listen to employees that have a legal basis for exemption to the requirement, such as a medical or religious exemption, and review them thoroughly, case-by-case.”

Count on NewsChannel 6 for more on this developing story.