By Jonathan T. Hyman, Esq.
The Biden Administration, through its Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, just released its COVID-19 Workplace Safety Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors. These new rules require that federal contractors and subcontractors mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for most of their employees. If your business holds contracts or subcontracts with the federal government, you must pay careful attention to these new rules. (Please note that this rule is different from the vaccine mandate the Occupational Safety & Health Administration will be issuing in the coming weeks for all employers with 100 or more employees, and on which WHP will provide a further update after its publication.)
Most importantly, any business that holds a federal contract or subcontract only has until December 8, 2021, to ensure that its employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Here are the key details.
- This mandate applies no matter dollar amount of the federal contracts held or the number of employees employed.
- The mandate applies to all full-time and part-time employees of a covered contractor or subcontractor, subject to only a few exceptions.
- Exception 1: Employees who need a reasonable accommodation for a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.
- Exception 2: Employees who work for a covered federal contractor or subcontractor, but work at a location that has no nexus to the federal contract or subcontract. For example, consider a construction company that holds some federal contracts. The job sites under those contracts are covered by the mandate. Also covered is the back office that provides administrative support (HR, IT, finance, etc.). Not covered, though, would be a job site not under a federal contract.
- Exception 3: Employees who both work 100 percent from home and are not performing any work related to a federal contract or subcontract.
- The mandate also imposes immediate masking and physical distancing obligations for covered contractors and subcontractors, both for employees and non-employee visitors.
- In areas of high or substantial community COVID-19 transmission (which currently includes all of Ohio), all people – employees and non-employees – must wear a mask when working indoors.
- In areas of low or moderate community COVID-19 transmission, only those who are not fully vaccinated must mask up indoors.
- Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must also wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during outdoor activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated.
- Mask rules are subject to exceptions for employees working alone in a closed office; when eating or drinking; when engaging in activities in which a mask may get wet; when engaging in high intensity activities that could make breathing difficult; and when engaging in activities for which wearing a mask could create a risk to workplace health or safety.
- Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to physically distance, while unvaccinated individuals should maintain six feet of physical distance from others at all times.
- Covered contractors and subcontractors must designate one or more person(s) to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts related to this mandate.
Given that it takes as long as six weeks for an employee to be considered fully vaccinated (as long as four weeks between Moderna vaccine doses plus an additional two weeks after the second dose to reach full immunity), an impacted business only has a few weeks to implement a vaccine mandate policy and program to ensure compliance by the December 8 deadline.
Please reach out to any Wickens Herzer Panza attorney, who can direct you to the proper WHP resource to answer your questions or to draft your COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Policy. Alternatively, contact Jon Hyman in our Employment & Labor Practice Group (440.695.8044 / JHyman@WickensLaw.com), who continues to monitor these issues and can help bring your company into compliance.
This article provides an overview and summary of the matters described therein. It is not intended to be and should not be construed as legal advice on the particular subject.