Who Is a Subcontractor under a Federal Government Contract?

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

Recently, clients have asked if they or a vendor or supplier are a “subcontractor” under a federal government contract. Sometimes the answer is easy—e.g., you are a subcontractor when a prime contractor contracts directly with a vendor or supplier (hereinafter “vendor”) to perform a federal contract. But the lines become less clear when a prime contractor does not inform the vendor that the subcontract is being entered into in furtherance of a federal government contract or where the vendor supplies goods that the prime contractor uses to perform commercial and government contracts.

Why Is Subcontractor Status Important?

Subcontractor status is important to prime and subcontractors. A federal prime contractor is required to flow-down multiple Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) clauses to its subcontractors. See FAR 52.212-5(e). The required flowdown clauses that receive the most attention implement three antidiscrimination laws: Executive Order 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; 29 U.S.C. § 793; and Section 402 of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, 38 U.S.C. § 4212. A prime contractor’s failure to flow down these clauses to its subcontractors could result in the prime contractor being held responsible and/or liable for its subcontractor’s noncompliance. Continue reading “Who Is a Subcontractor under a Federal Government Contract?”