Breaking Down the COVID-19 Safety Guidance for Government Contractors and Subcontractors: What We Know, What We Don’t, and What’s Next

Justin A. Chiarodo and Albert B. Krachman


Answering some questions and raising others, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued its highly anticipated COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors on Friday, September 24. The Guidance follows the president’s September 9, 2021, Executive Order (“EO”), which we summarized in FAQ: Government Contractor COVID Safeguards Executive Order.

In short: a broad vaccine mandate for employees of government contractors is coming. But the exact details on application, exemptions, and compliance remain unclear. New rules due by October 8, 2021, should better address those questions. Adding to this uncertainty, the Guidance encourages individual agencies to issue their own (potentially broader) guidance. That said, we can infer a lot from Friday’s guidance.

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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.

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Will Federal Contractors Be Required to Certify Employee COVID Vaccinations?

Albert B. Krachman and Brooke T. Iley

Do not be surprised if, before the end of 2021, the federal government begins requiring contractors to certify or represent that their employees have received COVID vaccinations. The federal government has long conditioned contract awards on contractor compliance with emerging social policy mandates. This practice dates backs to the 1960s, when collateral social policy clauses began appearing in federal contracts. The National Emergency created by COVID-19 would appear ripe for a similar federal government action in federal contracting.

Several factors are converging in the United States which signal the potential for a COVID vaccine Certification or Representation. First, the supply issue should be mostly resolved by June 30, 2021. The Biden administration has committed to make enough vaccines available for every adult in the country by the end of May 2021. Second, the administration has been extremely active in making procurement law changes to conform to its policy objectives. Crafting an Executive Order on COVID Vaccines for federal contractor employees is clearly within the administration’s wheelhouse and target zone. Third, as reported in the March 8, 2021, Wall Street Journal, the largest employers in the country, across all sectors, are already engaged in large scale efforts to vaccinate their own employees. Fourth, while the law in this area is still evolving, the prevailing view is that, with certain exceptions, private employers are legally permitted to mandate their employees receive COVID vaccinations as a condition of continuing employment, subject to a variety of considerations related to employee legal, medical, and workplace accommodations. Finally, the federal government might find a federal contractor vaccine mandate a helpful leverage point in the evolving conflict with those states choosing to disregard COVID protections.

Continue reading “Will Federal Contractors Be Required to Certify Employee COVID Vaccinations?”