COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors
To recap from our September Compliance Newsletter, President Biden issued an Executive Order mandating covered federal contractor’s (covered contractors) employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. He charged the Safer Federal Workforce Task force (the Task Force) with detailing the specifics on COVID-19 workplace safety protocols. On September 24, 2021, the Task Force released their Guidance. They set forth the rules surrounding Vaccination Requirements, Face Coverings and Physical Distancing, and designating a COVID-19 Workplace Safety Coordinator.
Covered contractors must ensure that all covered contractor employees are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 unless the employee is legally entitled to an accommodation. Covered contractor employees must be fully vaccinated no later than December 8, 2021. After that date, all covered contractor employees must be fully vaccinated by the first day of the period of performance on an exercised option or extended or renewed contract when the clause has been incorporated into the covered contract.
There may be situations where covered contractors may have to provide employees with accommodations because they are not vaccinated due to a disability or sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance. Requests for medical accommodations or exceptions should be treated as requests for a disability accommodation.
Covered contractors should review their covered employees’ documentation to prove vaccination status. Covered contractors must require covered contractor employees to show or provide one of the following copies:
- The record of immunization from a health care provider or pharmacy;
- The COVID-19 vaccination record card;
- Medical records documenting the vaccination;
- Immunization records from a public health or State immunization information system; or
- Any other official documentation verifying vaccination with information on the vaccine name, date(s) of administration, and the name of health care professional or clinic site administering vaccine.
Covered contractors may allow covered contractor employees to show or provide their employer with a digital copy of such records, including a:
- Digital photo;
- Scanned image; or
- PDF of such a record.
Covered contractors must ensure compliance with the requirements in this Guidance related to the showing or provision of proper vaccination documentation.
Face Coverings and Physical Distancing – Covered Contractor Workplaces
Covered contractors must ensure that all individuals, including covered contractor employees and visitors, comply with published Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for masking and physical distancing at a covered contractor workplace. In addition to the face coverings and physical distance guidance, contractors must follow applicable CDC guidance for mask-wearing and physical distancing.
Fully vaccinated individuals must wear a mask in indoor settings, except for limited exceptions in areas of high or substantial community transmission. However, fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear a mask in areas of low or moderate community transmission, nor do they need to physically distance, regardless of the level of transmission in the area.
Covered contractors must require individuals in covered contractor workplaces who are required to wear a mask to:
- Wear appropriate masks consistently and correctly (over mouth and nose).
- Wear appropriate masks in any common area or shared workspace (including open floorplan office spaces, cubicle embankments, and conference rooms).
- Wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during outdoor activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated, consistent with CDC guidance.
Covered contractors may be required to provide an accommodation to covered contractor employees that cannot wear masks because of a disability or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. Covered contractors should review and consider what accommodation they must offer.
COVID-19 Workplace Safety Coordinator
Covered contractors must designate one or more workers to coordinate implementation of and compliance with this Guidance. The COVID-19 coordinator(s) may be the same individual(s) responsible for implementing any COVID-19 workplace safety protocols required by local, state or federal law.
These coordinators must ensure that information on required COVID-19 workplace safety protocols is provided to covered contractor employees and all other individuals likely to be present at covered contractor workplaces. This includes communicating required workplace safety protocols and related policies by email, websites, memoranda, flyers or other means.
Coordinators should also post signage at covered contractor workplaces that sets forth the requirements and workplace safety protocols in this Guidance in a readily understandable manner. Coordinator(s) must also ensure that covered contractor employees comply with the requirements in this Guidance related to the showing or provision of proper vaccination documentation.
Employer Next Step Considerations
Covered contractors should review and adhere to the requirements of the Guidance. They are also responsible for ensuring that covered contractor employees comply with workplace safety protocols.
The Task Force Guidance provides FAQs which discusses specifics of these requirements. You can find them on pages 9-14 of the Guidance.
This newsletter is a summary of the new requirements and should be reviewed in whole for additional details that may or may not pertain to your company.