October 2022: Biden Administration Clarifies That Government Will Not Enforce Federal Contractor COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

03 Oct

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Update Applicable to:
All federal contractors.

What happened?
In a statement on its website, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has indicated that, until further notice, the government will not enforce any part (not just the COVID-19 vaccine mandate portion) of Executive Order 14042 (EO 14042).

What are the details?

On August 26, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit published its decision to overturn the nationwide injunction against the federal contractor’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate but leave the injunction in place for the plaintiff parties. 

State of Existing Injunctions
Currently, the vaccine mandate portion of EO 14042 is enjoined by a patchwork of injunctions covering all or a portion of federal contracts in 25 states. These include the following:

  • Any contracts within the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming;
  • Contracts between the following states themselves (and their agencies) and the federal government (i.e., not companies located or contracts performed within those states): Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia; and
  • Others:
    • Any business that is domiciled or headquartered in Arizona; and
    • Nationwide – Any contract that received bids from:
      • Any member of the trade association Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC); or
      • The states of Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, or West Virginia.

Updated Safer Federal Workforce Guidance
The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has updated its website for federal contractors. The updated website states that the federal government “will take no action to implement or enforce [EO] 14042.” It further stated that, for existing contracts containing a “clause implementing requirements of [EO] 14042, the Government will take no action to enforce the clause.”

This guidance was not limited to just the vaccine mandate portion of EO 14042, which had been the subject of the injunctions. Instead, the guidance stated that the federal government would not attempt to implement or enforce EO 14042. EO 14042 (and the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance issued pursuant to EO 14042) included other COVID-19 workplace safety protocols, such as masking and physical distancing requirements at contractors’ workplaces and a requirement that contractors designate a person responsible for coordinating COVID-19 safety efforts at the contractors’ workplaces. Accordingly, the federal government will no longer require employees to wear masks at contractors’ worksites (although employees may still be required to wear masks to enter certain federal facilities).

What do employers need to do?
Federal Contractors should review the links and look for any news regarding Covid-19 vaccine mandates for federal contractors. Vensure will continue to provide more communication once more updates have been received.

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