Blank Rome LLP and the National Defense Industrial Association (“NDIA”) Delaware Valley Chapter are pleased to present this new live webinar on Monday, December 6, 2021, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. EST.
The rules and guidance around the federal contractor COVID-19 vaccine mandate are changing by the day. Please join Blank Rome’s Government Contracts and Labor & Employment attorneys for timely analysis of what federal contractors need to be prepared, including an in-depth discussion of:
Latest guidance: What do prime contractors need to know to comply?
Which of my employees are covered by the mandate?
Does the mandate apply to subcontractors?
How do I deal with exemption requests?
What should I do if my workforce is not fully vaccinated?
Brian S. Gocial, Partner, Government Contracts, Blank Rome LLP, and Partner and Member of the Board, NDIA Delaware Valley Chapter
The National Defense Industrial Association drives strategic dialogue in national security by identifying key issues and leveraging the knowledge and experience of its military, government, industry, and academic members to address them. You can learn more about them on their website.
QUESTIONS? Please contact Alena Leon, Business Development Consultant.
Earlier today, November 4, 2021, the White House issued a fact sheet addressing its vaccination policies, including the government contractor mandate under EO 14042. Three key points stand out: (1) the compliance deadline for “full vaccination” status will be extended from December 8, 2021, to January 4, 2022; (2) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) vaccine rule for larger employers (which may permit weekly testing in lieu of vaccination) will not apply to workplaces covered by the federal contractor mandate; and (3) the Government continues to take the position that its mandates will preempt conflicting state or local laws. The full press release can be found at Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Announces Details of Two Major Vaccination Policies.
How does this new guidance impact government contractor compliance with EO 14042?
Most notably, the guidance extends the deadline for full vaccination status for covered contractors from December 8, 2021, to January 4, 2022. Covered contractor employees should receive their final vaccine dose by the new January 4, 2022, deadline.
Yesterday, November 1, 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued significant new guidance for contractors implementing vaccine mandates. The two key takeaways are: (1) contractors are not required to terminate unvaccinated employees immediately when the mandate goes into effect on December 8, and (2) federal agencies should not terminate contracts if a contractor is actively working toward compliance, even if the contractor faces challenges to achieving full compliance. The full updated FAQ is available on the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force website.
Are contractors still required to mandate vaccination by December 8?
Yes, covered contractors are still required to mandate that employees get vaccinated by December 8. However, rather than terminate noncompliant employees after the December 8 deadline, contractors should “determine the appropriate means of enforcement” for their employees.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott just raised the stakes in the inevitable tide of litigation about President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates by issuing an Executive Order banning vaccine mandates in Texas. We expect other states to follow suit. This raises important questions for federal contractors, who are working against the clock to ensure compliance with the new vaccine mandate applicable to most federal contracts by December 8, 2021 (see our most recent blog post about the details of the mandate, Government Contractor Vaccine Mandate FAQ: Status of Class Deviations and Accommodations Process).
It has been a busy week on the federal contractor COVID-19 vaccine mandate front. We answer questions below about the new class deviations that should start showing up in new contracts and solicitations, and key open issues on exemptions and coverage.
Where do things stand right now?
The Executive Order (“EO”) contemplated formal FAR amendments to be published by October 8, 2021. That date looks like it will slip. The open FAR Case shows an Ad Hoc Team has been tasked with drafting a FAR rule, with a report due on November 17. In the interim, both the Civilian and Defense Agency Acquisition Councils issued class deviations (here and here, respectively) implementing the EO. The deviations largely mirror the September 24, 2021, guidance.
The ABA Section of Public Contract Law serves to provide balanced recommendations on procurement policy, provide a forum to engage with colleagues across all segments of the procurement industry, and gain insight into and develop unique perspectives of federal, state, and local public contract law. For more information, please visit the Section’s webpage.
Does the mere existence of a deadly epidemic entitle a contractor to monetary relief when it experiences cost increases stemming from that epidemic? Not without Government direction, ruled the Federal Circuit in affirming a decision of the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA”) in Pernix Serka JV.
The facts of Pernix Serka are striking: a contractor repeatedly requests guidance for dealing with a major health crisis, the Government refuses to provide guidance, and the contractor is unable to recoup the additional costs it incurs in order to proceed with performance because the Government provided no guidance.
This timely ruling sheds light on strategies contractors should consider for recouping costs stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. We provide a roadmap below for navigating these issues in light of Pernix Serka JV.
The 2014 Ebola Crisis
Pernix Serka was in the midst of performing a contract in Sierra Leone when a deadly Ebola outbreak struck the country in 2014. Pernix Serka diligently sought guidance from the Contracting Officer on its State Department (“DOS”) contract, but the Government refused to weigh in on whether it should temporarily shut down its work on the contract. Ultimately, Pernix Serka decided to temporarily withdraw its personnel, which the Government then characterized as Pernix Serka’s “unilateral” decision. When Pernix Serka sought advice on whether and when to resume work, the Government went so far as to say that “DOS will not provide any instructions or directions” regarding whether and when to return to the work site. The contractor ultimately decided to resume performance, but incurred additional costs when it decided to contract for medical facilities and services on the project site.
We are thrilled to share that Stephanie Harden—a long-time and integral member of our practice group—has been elected to the partnership. For those who haven’t had the chance to connect or work with Stephanie—which we highly recommend!—we wanted to share the highlights of our virtual chat with Stephanie (edited for the blog) to help everyone get to know her better.
First of all, congratulations on your promotion! This is obviously the culmination of many years practicing in the field—but how did you first get interested in government contracts law?
Thank you! I’m very excited about this milestone and helping our clients succeed in my new role.
I spent one of my law school summers at GAO’s Office of General Counsel, where I was first exposed to bid protest litigation. I loved the fast-paced nature of bid protests and was interested in learning more about the field. After law school, I clerked for Judge Victor Wolski on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, where I learned about a host of government contracts issues and really solidified my interest in government contracts law. Being able to observe and learn from the Judge and the advocates practicing before the Court (both from the Justice Department and private bar) gave me a strong foundation for success.
A top-of-mind issue for contractors right now is whether Section 3610 of the CARES Act will expire on September 30, as it is currently set to do. As discussed here and here, Section 3610 authorizes reimbursement of certain contractors who are unable to access their work sites and unable to telework during the pandemic—a critical stopgap designed to keep contractor workforces in a “ready state.”
On September 22, the House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution that would fund the government through December 11, 2020, and included in the Continuing Resolution an extension of Section 3610 through that same date. Whether the Senate will approve the Continuing Resolution remains to be seen, but we are cautiously optimistic that Section 3610 will be extended in light of the House’s support.
Of course, as we previously discussed here, there are other potential bases of recovery for contractors beyond Section 3610. However, each basis comes with its own set of limitations, and, thus, the sweeping relief provided through Section 3610 remains critically important. Section 3610, in turn, comes with its own limitations—including that there is no dedicated funding behind it, it is discretionary, it only provides relief for a subset of costs stemming from the pandemic, and, even if extended, it will remain a temporary measure.
We will continue to monitor this important topic and provide updates as they occur.
In a September 1, 2020, ruling, the Federal Circuit addressed the reasonableness of subcontractor costs stemming from a government-caused delay under KBR’s LOGCAP contract in Iraq. This decision is important for contractors across all industries given the expected flood of COVID-19-related claims involving government-caused delays and/or idle time. The decision provides new guidance on what contractors must show to demonstrate the reasonableness of subcontractor costs.
The case involved a KBR subcontract to First Kuwaiti Co. of Kuwait (“First Kuwaiti”) to transport trailers into Iraq. The dissent (Judge Newman) explains the operational significance of expeditiously delivering these trailers: soldiers were sleeping in “abandoned schools, . . . tents, vehicles, the ground, or any other place soldiers could put a sleeping bag.” The Army tasked KBR with delivering more than 18,000 trailers to multiple locations in Iraq by Christmas 2003, a deadline which was important for both morale and tactical reasons. KBR, in turn, subcontracted to First Kuwaiti. Continue reading “KBR Subcontractor’s “Delay” Costs Rejected as Unreasonable by Federal Circuit, No Remand to Cure Defects”