On Sept. 24, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (SFWTF) issued guidance on President Biden’s executive order mandating that federal contractors and subcontractors must ensure their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19. The SFWTF is led by the White House COVID-19 Response Team, the General Services Administration, and the Office of Personnel Management. Specifically, the guidance clarifies that federal contractors with a covered contract must do the following:
- Ensure that employees of the covered contractor are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than Dec. 8,unless the employees are eligible for an accommodation due to a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief. After Dec. 8, the contractor must have their employees vaccinated by the first day of the period of performance on a newly awarded or extended contract.
- Requires that all employees of the contractor (or subcontractor) must comply, even if they don’t work on or in connection with the federal contract, except for employees who only perform work outside the U.S.
- Requires that employees and visitors of the covered contractor follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on masking and social distancing. This guidance includes the requirement that, in areas of high or substantial community transmission, vaccinated workers must be masked in indoor settings.
- Designate a specific person or persons to ensure the federal guidance is followed in all covered workplaces.
- Ensure that any subcontracts contain a clause requiring subcontractors to comply with these requirements, except for subcontracts solely for the provision of products.
The guidance defines “fully vaccinated” as two weeks after receiving the second dose in a two-dose series, or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine.
These requirements apply to hospitals that have an existing federal contract when an option is exercised, or an extension is made to the contract. At that time, the federal government will insert a clause in the contract or extension requiring the hospital to comply with SFWTF guidance.
The executive order and the SFWTF guidance describe the types of contracts that trigger these requirements. Participation in the Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal) programs is not enough to trigger these requirements. If a hospital has a contract with a federal agency valued at $250,000 or more, the SFWTF requirements likely will apply. The order and guidance do not apply to federal grants that hospitals may receive, such as research grants. Hospitals and their legal counsel should review the executive order, SFWTF guidance, and their federal contracts carefully to determine the actions they need to take.
This guidance aligns with the existing state vaccine mandate on hospitals and health facilities, which takes effect on Sept. 30. Unfortunately, it does not provide any additional guidance on what qualifies as an appropriate health or religious exemption.