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The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force Guidance for COVID-19 Workplace Safety

In September of this year, the administration issued Executive Order 14042, titled “Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors”. Part of that order requires all federal contractors to comply with any guidance put forth by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force on COVID-19 Workforce Safety. If you have a federal government contract or if you are a subcontractor at any level of a federal government contract regardless of the size of your organization, you will need to comply with this guidance. The following is a quick synopsis of the most relevant points of the guidance.

First, there is a mandatory vaccination requirement for contractor employees starting on December 8, 2021. All contractor employees who perform duties necessary to the performance of a government contract must be fully vaccinated by that date. This includes employees who are not directly engaged in performing the specific work called for by the contract but provide necessarily related duties such as billing, human resources, or legal review. Fully vaccinated means that at least two (2) weeks have elapsed since the second dose of a 2-dose vaccine or the single dose of a single-dose vaccine. This applies to all federal government contractors and sub-contractors, regardless of the size of the company. Small businesses are not exempt. Further, required by this guidance, even employees who work from home are required to have the mandatory vaccine. The employees must present proof of vaccination status to their employer. Neither an antibody test nor proof of recovering from COVID-19 is an acceptable alternative to vaccination. Employees may request an exemption from vaccination if they are medically unable to receive a vaccine or have sincerely held religious beliefs that prohibit them from taking a vaccine. It is up to the individual contractor companies to decide whether to grant these exemptions.

person receiving covid vaccination from healthcare worker

Second, the guidance requires masking at the contractor’s facility and at any federal facility if the contract requires performance at such a facility. Employees working from home are not required to wear masks. These masking requirements apply even if local or state rules are less stringent and do not require masks. However, if the local or state rules require a more stringent masking requirement, the guidance requires adherence to the more stringent guidelines. In areas of substantial or high COVID-19 transmission, fully vaccinated persons must wear a mask indoors, but do not need to physically distance themselves from others. In areas of low or moderate COVID-19 transmission, fully vaccinated persons need not wear masks. In all areas, unvaccinated persons must wear masks indoors and outdoors if they are in close contact with others and should physically distance themselves from others. As with the vaccine requirement, employees may request accommodations from the masking requirements based on medical issues or religious beliefs and the contractor must decide whether to grant these exemptions. Similarly, the contractor may grant exemptions, e.g. to employees working alone in a closed office, or otherwise unable to come into contact with others.

social distancing sign on glass

If you are a prime contractor, you need to flow down these provisions to all subcontractors in the first tier. If you are a subcontractor, you need to flow down these provisions to all sub-contractors in the tier below you. The only subcontractors who do not have to comply with the guidance are those that sub-contract solely for the provision of goods. The guidance also requires that each contractor and subcontractor designate at least one person to monitor compliance with the guidelines set forth by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force on COVID-19 Workforce Safety.