New Vaccination Mandate for On-Site Federal Contractor Employees
On July 29, 2021, the Biden Administration announced a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for certain employees of federal government contractors. The announcement, released in a Fact Sheet, imposes new safety protocols on the federal contractor workforce, but does not flesh out key details, including the specific responsibilities of federal contractors to obtain and ensure compliance.
The Fact Sheet states that every “onsite” employee of a federal contractor “will be asked to attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status.” If an employee does not attest to being fully vaccinated, then that employee will be required to wear a mask on the job “no matter their geographic location,” physically distance from other employees and visitors, and comply with weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirements. Unvaccinated employees would also be subject to restrictions on official travel. The Fact Sheet also states that the administration is “directing” that “similar standards” be applied “to all federal contractors.”
The Fact Sheet leaves many key questions unanswered, including:
Who are the “onsite” contractor employees subject to the new mandate? Presumably the mandate applies to contractor employees who work on federal premises, but the Fact Sheet does not explicitly define this category.
What obligations do federal contractors have to determine the vaccination status of their employees or conduct the required testing?
What specific physical distancing protocols will unvaccinated employees be required to follow and who is responsible for ensuring compliance?
Which agency will be issuing further requirements for “all federal contractors,” and under what statutory authority?
Federal contractors, especially those whose employees work on federal premises, should begin immediately preparing to ensure their personnel comply with the new requirements. Contractors may wish to begin taking action to determine the vaccination status of their workforces and encourage employees to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination. Because vaccination issues are rapidly developing and involve complex determinations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, and other federal and state laws, contractors should consult with counsel about these requirements.