A new vaccine mandate announced by the Biden Administration applies to private (non-government) employees who work on-site at federal facilities. The mandate requires that all federal employees and on-site contractor employees either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face repeated testing, and comply with strict social distancing and masking requirements. The vaccine mandate comes as private employers and government agencies attempt to bring workers back to the physical workplace even as infection and hospitalization rates are on the rise across the country, due largely to the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant.
Under the mandate, fully vaccinated contractor employees who work at federal sites will be required to:
- Submit documentation confirming their vaccination status; and
- Wear a mask indoors if working in a locality with high or substantial transmission rates, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance.
Contractor employees who are not fully vaccinated or who decline to confirm their vaccination status will be required to:
- Take weekly or bi-weekly COVID-19 tests and provide evidence of negative tests;
- Wear a mask at all times and socially distance; and
- Be subject to government-wide restrictions on official travel.
Workers who fail to comply with the above requirements will be denied site access.
Currently, federal contractors are being contacted by their contracting agencies about how those agencies will be implementing these requirements. You may have already heard from your agency, or will soon. While all federal agencies must implement these basic requirements, each agency retains discretion with respect to the details of requirements and implementation. These include:
- The date on which the requirements are effective;
- What type(s) of documentation will be acceptable to confirm vaccination status and how they should be submitted to the agency; and
- How often testing will be required (weekly or bi-weekly), whether it will be provided on-site and by whom, what type of testing (antigen or PCR) will be required, and the form in which negative test results must be transmitted to the agency.
If your business currently provides on-site workers under a federal contract, you should:
- Make sure you have designated an individual or team to oversee the process for all impacted contracts and employees and a point of contact for each federal agency with which you have a contract;
- Communicate these new requirements to impacted employees, explaining that the timing and details will be shared once that information is provided by the contracting agencies;
- Assess how these new requirements interact with current state or local mandates and with your own requirements on vaccines, testing, masking, and distancing;
- Determine whether any costs associated with these obligations are billable to the federal agency; and
- Consider federal and state wage and hour law implications with respect to time taken for vaccinations, testing and related expenses.
As a reminder, vaccine mandates are legally permissible and employers are not required to offer a testing alternative (unless an employee has been granted a disability or religious accommodation). Given the potential expense of repeated on-the-clock testing of employees, you may consider implementing a vaccine mandate at least for your on-site workers, if you have not done so already.
As always, we remain committed to helping you navigate the quickly changing COVID-related regulations and laws during these difficult times. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you would like to discuss further.