We continue to follow the evolving guidance borne of President Biden’s vaccination and masking mandate now titled, “The Path Out of the Pandemic: COVID-19 Action Plan.” Immediately following the introduction of his plan, on September 9, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14042, “Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors.” This order requires federal contractors, subcontractors, their employees and visitors to comply with the provisions of President Biden’s plan. On Friday, September 24, 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued guidance for federal contractors and subcontractors. This guidance only applies to federal contractors, subcontractors, their employees and visitors, however, the attention to detail and definition, as well as determination of the directive provided, may foreshadow the anticipated requirements for private employers. We continue to urge all employers to monitor the progression of this mandate, review their own COVID-19 prevention plan and consider opportunities for required address.
There are several key components defined by the new guidance for federal contractors. All employees of federal contractors and subcontractors must be fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021. The term “fully vaccinated” is defined as two weeks post receipt of the final dose depending on the vaccine. A “covered contractor employee” includes any full-time or part-time employee of a covered contractor. The definition further includes any employee;
- working on or in connection with a covered contract;
- working at a covered contractor workplace; and
- working for covered contractors but who are not themselves working on or in connection with a covered contract.
All employees must be vaccinated by the deadline unless they are subject to accommodation resulting from medical disability or religious belief.
Federal contractors and subcontractors must ensure compliance by both employees and visitors related to masking and physical distancing in a covered workplace. The guidance provides that a covered workplace is any location, controlled by a covered contractor, at which an employee is working or is “likely to be present.” The guidance extends coverage to a federal workplace which it defines as “any place, site, installation, building, room, or facility in which any federal executive department or agency conducts official business, or is within an executive department or agency’s jurisdiction, custody, or control.”
According to the guidance, federal contractors and subcontractors must designate a person(s) to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts at covered contractor workplaces. Covered contractors must implement a plan for review and documentation of vaccination of employees. At least one of the following forms of proof of vaccination must be recorded:
- 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 identifying the vaccine name, date(s) of administration, and the name of health care professional or clinic site administering vaccine.
The designated coordinator must ensure that requisite information is provided to “covered contractor employees and all other individuals likely to be present at covered contractor workplaces.” The information may be conveyed utilizing various modalities, including but not limited to, email, websites, memoranda, flyers or signage. The information must be readily understandable. Covered contractors are encouraged to post information, including requirements for vaccination, masking and social distancing, at all entrances of a covered workplace.
These directives apply to all parties who contract with the Federal Government. This guidance defines a contract as “an agreement between two or more parties creating obligations that are enforceable or otherwise recognizable at law.” It covers any “mutually binding legal relationship obligating one party to furnish services to another party”. Further, the directives apply to any “contract(s) and any subcontract(s) of any tier thereunder.” The mandate is pervasive – if you, as an employer, contract with the Federal Government or covered contractor, you are likely covered by Executive Order 14042 and are subject to compliance with these directives.
Further, this guidance “strongly encourages” covered contractors to develop and implement similar protocols for “non-covered contracts and agreements with non-covered contractors whose employees perform work at covered contractor workplaces.” Examples include food services, onsite security, and/or grounds-keeping services. This is yet another example of the expansive reach of the proposed guidelines.
This summary provides a basic review of the guidance issued for federal contractors and subcontractors. Our purpose remains to educate and guide our employer clients through this difficult period. This new guidance further illuminates the path President Biden’s mandate expects the professional community to pursue. We anticipate OSHA to issue additional guidance for private employers in the next 2-6 weeks. We will, of course, keep you apprised of all developments.
In the interim, we encourage employers to review their existing plans for prevention and mitigation and contact us with questions and concerns at EmploymentLaw@c-wlaw.com or 1-888-488-2638.