By Susan Richards Salen
The Biden Administration promulgated its Path Out of the Pandemic COVID-19 Action Plan on September 9, 2021. The Plan/Order requires federal contractors (and all lower-tiered subcontractors) to comply with the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force Guidance (“Guidance”). This Guidance was issued on September 24, 2021. The key points of the Guidance are set forth below:
- Only federal contracts or instruments that have a required clause (or other language in a contract that requires implementation of the Order) shall abide by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force Guidance. Thus, covered-contracts are only those contracts that have “contract-like instruments” that actually include the language incorporating the requirements of the Order. This means that until a new contract-like instrument, a new task order, or a new purchase order is issued or an option is exercised, the Order does not apply to an existing federal contract. The Guidance flows down to all subcontractor tiers. The Guidance does not apply to contractors that provide only products. A FAR clause will be adopted, which will be included in all new federal contracts. The Order requires that the requirements of the Order be included in all new contract-like-instruments entered into on or after October 15, 2021. Please be advised that Agencies have been advised to include the provisions as soon as possible (earlier than October 15, 2021).
- The Guidance requires that all employees of the contractor that work on or in connection with a covered contract must be vaccinated, except where an accommodation for a religious observance or disability is granted. This means that it applies to support staff: human resources, accounting/billing, legal, etc.
- Vaccine attestation forms are not sufficient. Covered employees must show proof of vaccination status. Digital copies are acceptable. Recent anti-body tests are not sufficient. Employees must be vaccinated. (Be aware employers cannot require, should not ask for or accept antigen or anti-body test results from employees).
- The vaccination requirement applies to remote workers working from their residence, but such employees do not need to wear a mask or physically distance when working from their residence.
- If the contractor has employees in its building/premises supporting the contract, the rules apply to the entire premises unless the contractor can guarantee that no employee that is not covered by the vaccination requirements will not interact with employees who must be vaccinated. This means that all employees in that facility must be vaccinated.
- All covered contractor employees must be fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021, unless a contractor employee is granted an accommodation for religious or disability reasons. The employer is responsible for reviewing and making a determination on any request for an accommodation. The Agency is involved in the accommodation decision only where there is a joint employer relationship.
- Masking mandates as well as physical distancing requirements apply to unvaccinated employees (employees granted an accommodation) and when required by CDC recommendations in areas of substantial transmission. Accommodations/exceptions from mask mandates may be granted on religious and disability grounds.
- The Guidance does not apply to employees working outside of the United States.
- Employers are to designate an employee responsible for ensuring information regarding COVID-19 workplace protocols are provided to covered contractor employees and those that are in the same workplace.
- Ascertain if and when the vaccination requirements apply to them;
- Appoint a key person(s), who will be responsible for making sure the Guidance is properly implemented and for distributing workplace safety requirements to employees;
- Ascertain the vaccination status of your workforce by requiring employees to complete vaccination attestations. Consider requiring your employees to provide proof of vaccination status at the time a vaccination attestation is requested. Make sure to treat vaccination status and proof as confidential medical information;
- Determine what employees are “covered employees”;
- Educate covered employees as to the consequences of remaining unvaccinated and provide employees with the time-line necessary to be “fully vaccinated” by December 8, 2021.
- Put an accommodation procedure in place for disability or religious accommodation requests;
- Determine if a mandatory vaccine policy will/should be adopted.
We are here to help. Contact Susan Salen at email@example.com or call 703‑790‑1911.