NEWPORT NEWS—In a letter dated November 16, Huntington Ingalls Industries President and CEO Mike Peters issued a message to employees stating that the federal government’s January 4, 2022 covid vaccine mandate deadline was being suspended. The message also clarified that after considerable work with the Navy to meet the intent of the mandate, Navy contracts with Newport News Shipbuilding do not include a vaccine mandate requirement at this time.
A message posted on Facebook by Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding and executive vice president of Huntington Ingalls Industries, appears to alter the shipyard’s stance on mandates.
“This recent information is different from what we understood to be the government’s and the Navy’s intent,” said Boykin. “As a result of what we know today, some of the related mandate policies and processes will now change. Because employee safety continues to be our top priority, other covid-related policies will not change.”
According to the post from Boykin, here’s what is changing:
- Covid-19 vaccination is not required as a condition of employment for current or leased employees.
- Employees who applied for a religious or medical exemption will be contacted in writing with additional clarification.
- Shipbuilders who opted to submit for retirement or to resign as a result of the federal mandate have the option to request reversal of their decision.
- For those who have started the retirement process, please contact the HII Benefits Center for more information.
- For employees who notified management or Human Resources of plans to resign, please talk with your immediate supervisor if your plans change. Supervisors should contact their Human Resources business partner for guidance.
- Offsite employees will be required to follow the guidance provided by the work location.
- Subcontractors do not need to be fully vaccinated.
Here’s what is not changing:
- Employees are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination to the Newport New Shipbuilding (NSS) Access Center (Building 625). This information equips the company with accurate records should the government require it in the future.
- The NNS Vaccination Site will remain open through December 22. Hours of operation are 4:30am to 4:30pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, and 6am to 6pm Wednesdays through Fridays. Monday hours will be reduced to 6:30am to 3pm beginning November 29.
- NNS will continue to conduct contact tracing investigations if an employee is found to have covid-19. Testing and quarantine procedures remain in place for employees identified as close contacts.
- The NNS mask and in-person social gathering policies will continue to follow transmission levels in the local community. Currently, Hampton Roads is in the SUBSTANTIAL TRANSMISSION category, therefore:
- The mask policy remains in place. All employees must wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, if they cannot maintain social distance of at least six feet or if they are moving from one place to another. Outdoors, unvaccinated employees must also wear masks if social distance cannot be maintained. As Hampton Roads’ transmission level changes, NNS will change and communicate any new mask policy.
- The restriction on in-person social gatherings remains in place. These gatherings must still be held outdoors. This includes holiday socials, ERG events, retirements, and team recognition events. Protocols for social gatherings as well as in-person business meetings can be found on MyNNS.
“I want everyone to know that we have aggressively pushed for clarity around the intent and administration of this mandate to provide our employees with the most accurate and up to date information,” said Boykin in her post. “This guidance continues to evolve and is subject to further change. I remain committed to keeping everyone informed. As always, I appreciate your continued patience as we remain focused on our No Fail Mission.”