Biden Administration Delays the Deadline for Federal Contractor Employees to Become Fully Vaccinated Until January 4, 2022
On November 4, 2021, the Biden Administration issued a Fact Sheet announcing the release of its long-awaited Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) COVID-19 vaccination mandates. The Fact Sheet delivered significant news for federal government contractors by announcing that the December 8, 2021 deadline for compliance with Executive Order 14042’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for contractors will be extended to January 4, 2022, the same deadline set forth in the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard and CMS mandate.
The Fact Sheet also announced that the new OSHA mandate is inapplicable to workplaces that are subject to Executive Order 14042’s vaccination mandate in order to streamline compliance and avoid the need to track multiple vaccination requirements for the same employees. This will allow some federal contractors to avoid the substantial documentation and recordkeeping requirements imposed by the new OSHA standard. However, it also means that federal contractors cannot offer employees who work on or in connection with a federal contract the testing option that is available under OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard. Some contractors that have purely commercial workplace locations not subject to Executive Order 14042 may be subject to both the Executive Order’s and OSHA’s mandates.
The announcement follows closely on a November 1, 2021 update to the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force’s Frequently Asked Questions on the contractor mandate that provided additional flexibility to federal contractors in implementing the requirement. Specifically, the new FAQ guidance clarified that employees with pending religious or disability-based accommodation requests may continue to work – subject to the masking and social distancing protocols applicable to unvaccinated employees – while their requests are adjudicated. The new FAQs also provide contractors with some additional flexibility in addressing covered employees who refuse to become fully vaccinated by the deadline. It is unclear whether the Task Force will eliminate this flexibility in light of the delay in the Executive Order’s deadline.
As of 2:00 PM EST on November 4, 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force had not updated its Guidance or FAQs to incorporate the new deadline announced in the Fact Sheet. We expect that additional guidance from the Task Force will follow in the near future.