FAQ: Government Contractor COVID Safeguards Executive Order

Justin A. Chiarodo, Brooke T. Iley, and Albert B. Krachman

“If you want to work with the federal government, do business with us? Get vaccinated” – President Biden, White House Remarks, September 9, 2021

We forecast in March (Will Federal Contractors Be Required to Certify Employee COVID Vaccinations?) possible COVID safety mandates for government contractors. They’ve arrived. President Biden issued a September 9, 2021, executive order (“EO”) that will implement sweeping COVID Safety protocols for government contractors, including potential vaccine mandates, to be established by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.

This FAQ breaks down the basics and includes our assessment of best practices pending forthcoming rulemaking.

What does the EO do?

The EO commissions new regulations that will broadly apply to all prime and subcontracts. The regulations will require compliance with Office of Management and Budget-approved COVID protocols published by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force at contractor locations where federal contract work is performed. We expect these to include vaccine mandates, though the details remain to be worked out.

Does the EO apply to me?

If you are a prime contractor or subcontractor at any tier and have workplaces where your employees are performing on a federal government contract or contract-like instrument, you should plan to comply with the rule.

Where can I learn more about the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force requirements?

On the Task Force’s website: Safer Federal Workforce. The EO requires guidance on the contractor protocols by September 24, 2021 (so keep an eye on the “What’s New” section).

When will the new rules go into effect?

Imminently. FAR amendments should issue by October 8, 2021, with clauses inserted in new contracts, options, and extensions issued after October 15, 2021.

What should I be doing now?

Emerging best practices include:

      1. implementing vaccination tracking for all employees, including those not working on government contracts;
      2. monitoring local rates of transmission at contract work sites to determine if additional safety measures are necessary;
      3. requesting certification of vaccination status from all employees and visitors present at any contractor work site for 30+ minutes;
      4. asking that vaccinated employees carry certification of vaccination with them (g., photo of vaccination record card) at all times;
      5. consider providing employees up to four hours of administrative leave to receive each vaccination dose, including booster doses;
      6. supporting, where appropriate, remote work options;
      7. requiring that unvaccinated or non-disclosing employees wear masks and physically distance at all times; and
      8. monitoring for new guidance often.

We will continue to monitor coming guidance for the key compliance details—including potential vaccination exemptions for religious or health reasons, grace periods for implementation, and compliance consequences—that are unclear right now.

See our Blank Rome Workplace blog post for important details all affected employers should know.

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