Task Force Releases Guidance on Vaccine Requirements for Federal Contractors

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On Friday, following President Biden's September 9, 2021, Executive Order (EO) on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force) released the Federal Contractor Vaccine Guidance regarding requirements for employee vaccinations.

The EO created a federal policy requiring contracting agencies to include contract clauses in covered federal contracts requiring the contractor and all subcontractors (of any tier) to comply with all Task Force guidance for contractor or subcontractor workplace locations for the duration of the contract. The new clause will be included in covered federal contracts issued on or after October 15, 2021, or potentially earlier if permitted by law. When possible, contracting agencies are also to include the requirements in contract extensions, renewals, or exercised options on existing contracts.

The guidance released on Friday confirms the mandate is broad and applies to all employees who may work at a covered contractor's workplace even if their work does not relate to a government contract and employees whose connection to a covered contract is purely administrative, such as billing, human resources, and legal.

The details of the new guidance are summarized below. While the requirements are not yet incorporated into federal contracts, current guidance requires onsite unvaccinated contractor employees who are not part of an agency testing program to provide proof of a CDC-approved negative COVID-19 test from no later than the previous three days before entry into a federal building.

What Is a Covered Contract?

  • A procurement contract or contract-like instrument for services, construction, or a leasehold interest in real property;
  • A contract or contract-like instrument for services covered by the Service Contract Act, 41 U.S.C. 6701 et seq.;
  • A contract or contract-like instrument for concessions, including any concessions contract excluded by Department of Labor regulations at 29 C.F.R. 4.133(b); or
  • A contract or contract-like instrument entered into with the Federal Government in connection with Federal property or lands and related to offering services for Federal employees, their dependents, or the general public.

What Does the Vaccine Guidance Require?

  • 1. Vaccines required for covered contractor employees, except where an employee is legally entitled to an accommodation.
  • 2. Employees and visitors are required to adhere to masking and physical distancing while in covered contractor workplaces.
  • 3. Contractors must designate a person/persons to coordinate workplace safety efforts at covered contractor workplaces.

When Must Employees Be Vaccinated?

  • No later than December 8, 2021.
    • Note: This date applies to covered contractors with the required clause in an active contract.
  • After December 8, 2021, employees must be fully vaccinated by the first day of the period of performance on a newly awarded contract.
  • After December 8, 2021, employees must be fully vaccinated by the first day of the period of performance on an exercised option or extended or renewed contract.
  • The head of an agency may approve an extension for a covered contractor, but that extension cannot extend beyond 60 days of beginning work on a covered contract or at a covered workplace.

Which Employees Must Be Vaccinated?

  • Any employee (full-time and part-time) working on or in connection with a covered contract or working at a covered contractor workplace. This includes employees who are not themselves working on or in connection with a covered contract but who merely work at a covered contractor workplace.
    • A "covered contractor workplace" means a location controlled by a covered contractor at which any employee working on or in connection with a covered contract is likely to be present during the period of performance for a covered contract.
    • A "covered contractor workplace" does not include a covered contractor employee's residence.
  • Working "in connection with" a covered contract includes roles like human resources, billing, and legal review work.

Do Remote Employees Need to Be Vaccinated?

  • Yes. Remote employees working on or in connection with a covered contract must be vaccinated. Even if their work is entirely remote and the employee never leaves their residence.

Do Employers Need to Verify Employees' Vaccination Status?

  • Yes. Covered contractors must require covered contractor employees to show or provide their vaccine records.
    • An attestation is not sufficient 
  • Approved vaccines include:
    • Pfizer-BioNTech
    • Moderna
    • Johnson & Johnson/Jansssen
    • AstraZeneca/Oxford
    • Novavax – clinical trial participants

Do Vaccinated Employees Need to Wear a Mask and Physically Distance?

  • Yes, in areas of high or substantial community transmission, fully vaccinated people must wear a mask in indoor settings.
    • There are two exceptions to the mask requirement that must be approved in writing by a duly authorized representative of the covered contractor:
      • When working alone in a room with floor-to-ceiling walls and a closed door.
      • When employees are engaging in activities in which a mask may get wet, high intensity activities, or wearing a mask would risk workplace health or safety.
  • But in areas of low or moderate community transmission, fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to physically distance regardless of the level of transmission.
  • Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask indoors and in certain outdoor settings regardless of the level of community transmission.
  • Covered contractors must check the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker County website at least weekly to ensure proper protocols are followed depending on the status of transmission rates.

Subcontractors

  • Downstream contracts (subcontracts at any tier) must incorporate the clause requiring adherence to safety protocols issued by the Task Force.
  • Contractors are required to incorporate the clause into first-tier subcontracts.
  • There is no requirement to verify vaccine status of subcontractors' employees.

Other Notes

  • Agencies are "strongly encouraged" to incorporate a clause requiring compliance with this Guidance into contracts that are not covered by the Executive Order, such as contracts under the Simplified Acquisition Threshold or manufacturing contracts.
  • Contractors are "strongly encouraged" to incorporate vaccination requirements into their non-covered contracts.
  • Contractors must post safety protocols in the workplace and disseminate those protocols to employees.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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