President Biden’s Executive Order (EO) 14042 requires Federal Government contractors to implement certain measures designed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic including;
- Most employees working on or in connection with a covered contract must be vaccinated,
- Masks and social distancing will be required in covered locations, and
- Contractors must appoint an employee to be responsible for implementing the COVID-19 safeguards.
Since the EO was clear on the objectives but short on details and definitions, the EO also directed the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force to issue specific guidelines for compliance with the EO and the FAR counsel to develop a new FAR clause (52.223-99) that requires contractors to comply with those guidelines. The Task Force has now issued their guidelines along with a fairly comprehensive list of “Frequently Asked Questions.” The FAQs are organized in 5 topic areas, which are listed below. This blog summarizes a few of the significant or interesting facts from each topic area.
- Vaccination and Safety Protocols
- Covered contractors should ensure their employees are aware of convenient opportunities to be vaccinated. Although covered contractors may choose to provide vaccinations at their facilities or workplaces, given the widespread availability of vaccinations, covered contractors are not required to do so.
- Explains that if employees located at their own facilities do not come into contact with covered employees during the period of performance of that covered contract they do not have to be vaccinated. This means commercial employees in separate buildings that do not ever comingle with covered employees working on or in connection with covered contracts are exempt from this rule.
- Scope and Applicability of Task Force Guidance for Federal Contractors
- This clause will be added to all new contracts and options that are exercised beginning November 14, 2021.
- Contract awarded prior to October 15, 2021 and performance is still ongoing, the government is to add in the clause when exercising any options.
- For those that fall between October 15th and November 14th agencies are to include the new clause in all solicitations and are encouraged to add to any new contracts being awarded during this timeframe.
- The new FAR Clause 52.223-99, becomes a required flow down clause to all lower level subcontractors
- Compliance with this clause does not negate contractors from adhering to any State law or municipal ordinance establishing more protective workplace safety protocols than those established under this Guidance.
- Onsite Contractor Employees and Federal Workplace Safety Protocols
- In areas of “high transmission”, fully vaccinated people still need to wear a mask in Federal facilities. In areas of low or moderate transmission, vaccinated people will not be required to wear a mask. In general, contractors need to follow the masking guidance issued by the CDC.
All government contractors need to review the Guidance and all the FAQs as this is currently the best resource for understanding and ultimately complying with the Guidelines. Time is of the essence because once the FAR clause is added to the contract, Contractors will need to start implementing the requirements. The target date for covered employees to be fully vaccinated is by December 8, 2021, except in limited circumstances. Agencies are expected to begin applying the clause on or before October 15th.
Aronson will continue to share updates as they become available.
The following definitions are contained in the Guidelines.
Contractor or subcontractor workplace location – means a location where covered contract employees work, including a covered contractor workplace or Federal workplace.
Covered contract – means any contract or contract-like instrument that includes the clause described in Section 2(a) of the order.
Covered contractor – means a prime contractor or subcontractor at any tier who is party to a covered contract.
Covered contractor employee – means any full-time or part-time employee of a covered contractor working on or in connection with a covered contract or working at a covered contractor workplace. This includes employees of covered contractors who are not themselves working on or in connection with a covered contract.
Covered contractor workplace – means a location controlled by a covered contractor at which any employee of a covered contractor working on or in connection with a covered contract is likely to be present during the period of performance for a covered contract. A covered contractor workplace does not include a covered contractor employee’s residence.