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COVID-19 vaccine guidance issued for federal contractors, subcontractors

Benefits Administration and Outsourcing Solutions|Health and Benefits|Wellbeing
COVID 19 Coronavirus

By Anu Gogna and Benjamin Lupin | October 7, 2021

Employees of federal contractors and subcontractors must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination by December 8, 2021, subject to legal exemption.

On September 24, 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors. This guidance is a result of President Biden’s Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, which is part of Biden’s COVID-19 action plan, Path Out of the Pandemic.1 The Executive Order directs executive departments and agencies to ensure that federal contracts include a clause specifying that the contractor and subcontractor will comply with all guidance issued by the task force.

According to the task force guidance, federal contractors and subcontractors must:

  • Ensure that all employees are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination by December 8, 2021, unless granted an exemption
  • Ensure that all employees and workplace visitors comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for masking and physical distancing
  • Designate a person to coordinate implementation and compliance with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Lawsuits have already been filed against the Biden administration challenging the federal contractor COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Highlights

Applicability

The task force guidance generally applies to all employees working at the federal contractor (including those not involved with the contract and those working from home); however, it does not apply to those who work outside the United States. It also applies to all subcontractors, except for those solely providing products.

COVID-19 vaccination

All employees (except those with an accommodation exemption) must be fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021.

Proof of COVID-19 vaccination

The employee must provide proof of vaccination. Acceptable forms of documentation (including digital copies) include:

  • A copy of the record of immunization from a health care provider or pharmacy
  • A copy of the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card
  • A copy of medical records documenting the vaccination
  • A copy of immunization records from a public health or state immunization information system
  • A copy of any other official documentation verifying vaccination with information on the vaccine name, date(s) of administration, and the name of the health care professional or clinic site administering vaccine

A recent antibody test or an employee’s attestation of vaccination is not an acceptable form of proof. Individuals who have had COVID-19 must still get vaccinated.

Masking and physical distancing

Covered contractors must ensure that all employees and visitors comply with published CDC guidance for masking and physical distancing at the workplace. The rules for masking (including exceptions to the general rule) may depend on the community transmission rate in the federal contractor’s or subcontractor’s area as well as the setup of the workplace; specific rules should be discussed with qualified legal counsel.

Accommodations

A federal contractor may be required to provide an accommodation to employees, regardless of where they work, who communicate to the employer that they are not vaccinated, or cannot wear a mask, because of a disability (which would include medical conditions) or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance. The contractor would need to review and consider what, if any, accommodation it must offer.

Compliance

The guidance supersedes any state or local law or ordinance; however, covered contractors must still comply with any state law or municipal ordinance workplace safety protocols that are more protective than those under the task force guidance. In addition, contractors must comply with the task force guidance regardless of whether they are subject to other workplace safety standards (such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance on the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employers with 100 or more employees, which is expected in the coming weeks).

Timing

For federal contracts awarded prior to October 15, 2021, where performance is ongoing, the requirements must be incorporated at the point at which an option is exercised or an extension is made.

The requirements must be incorporated into contracts awarded on or after November 14, 2021. Between October 15, 2021, and November 14, 2021, agencies must include the clause in the solicitation and are encouraged to include it in contracts awarded during this time period; however, they are not required to do so unless the contract solicitation was issued on or after October 15, 2021.

Footnote

1 See “President Biden’s new COVID-19 vaccine plan will affect employers,” Insider, September 2021.

Authors

Senior Regulatory Advisor, Health and Benefits

Senior Regulatory Advisor, Health and Benefits

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