On July 29, 2021, President Biden announced that the administration would be implementing new COVID-19 prevention measures for federal employees and contractors. The plan requires all federal employees and onsite contractor employees to attest to their vaccination status. Any unvaccinated person must wear a mask and social distance while on the job, everywhere in the country. According to a fact sheet released by the White House, unvaccinated individuals must also comply with a weekly or twice-weekly screening/testing requirement and will be subject to restrictions on official travel. Those who decline to reveal their vaccination status will be subject to the same rules as unvaccinated individuals.
Vaccinated individuals must only wear a mask when their job site is located in a “hotspot,” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control’s community transmission tracker. Any job site in a county coded as “substantial” (orange) or “high” (red) transmission will invoke the mask mandate for all employees on site.
Additionally, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has published a set of Model Safety Principles for federal agencies to implement. These principles also impact onsite contractor employees and echo the White House guidance that has been issued thus far.
Although the White House fact sheet and the Model Safety Principles only reference onsite contractor employees, the President has also asked for officials to review whether these requirements should be extended to all federal contractor employees, regardless of whether they are working on a government site or not.
No official Executive Order (EO) on this topic has been issued, so it is unknown when these COVID-19 prevention measures will be implemented and whether they will be extended to cover all federal contractor employees. At a minimum, government contractors need to be ready to inform their onsite employees of the vaccination status attestation and mask requirements once the EO is issued.
Taft’s Government Contracts and Employment Law practice groups are monitoring this situation and will publish an update when further guidance is available.