What federal contractors need to know about vaccination mandates

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines modifying Covid-19 safety protocols for federal employees and agencies. The Federal Workforce Safety Task Force says federal agencies should suspend the requirement or request that current or potential federal employees provide their immunization status.

This news quickly followed with more guidance from the task force on the federal government’s intent to take no action or enforce Executive Order 14042, which addressed Covid safety protocols for federal contractors. In a rapidly changing post-pandemic environment, what does all of this mean for federal employees and contractors?

Impact on employees

More importantly, the new guidelines primarily relate to testing and isolation requirements for unvaccinated and vaccinated employees.

Following the release of these updated guidelines, the Biden administration asked agencies to halt their testing programs for their unvaccinated employees for Covid-19. However, despite the August 22 deadline, many agencies, especially the Department of Defense, are still figuring out how best to stop these testing programs.

With the mix of military, civilian and contract personnel, it is an ongoing process to develop a unique solution to protect the department and its employees while remaining compliant with the new testing policy.

There are some exceptions to stopping testing for unvaccinated employees in certain federal workplaces, including nursing homes and homeless shelters. Additionally, the White House guidelines also said any ongoing testing, regardless of vaccination status, should also be done.

Impact on the entrepreneur

The suspension of the implementation and enforcement of the federal contractors’ vaccine warrant follows the August 28, 2022 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that narrowed the scope of the original warrant vaccine for certain federal contractors.

The injunction in this case prohibits enforcement of the vaccination mandate only in seven plaintiff states – Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia – as well as contractors and subcontractors of some complaining construction groups.

By eliminating the nationwide injunction in those states, it puts the issue back in the national spotlight, as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit still grapples with the original lawsuit filed in December 2021 regarding the vaccine warrant. of Biden for federal employees.

After overturning the three-judge panel’s initial decision to keep the injunction in place on June 27, the court agreed to hold a bench hearing with the full panel of 17 judges. Although the judges did not say when they would issue a decision, it is expected that a decision on this will come soon as the issues surrounding Covid-19 will once again be in the national spotlight.

Because of this, many entrepreneurs again find themselves following these legal developments closely as they try to navigate the patchwork enforcement of the vaccination mandate across the country. To help with that, the task force recently released an FAQ on federal contractors and their symptom reporting responsibilities and on-site safety protocols.

Impact of legislation and litigation

Another popular question in response to these new guidelines was how this would impact current legislation regarding the legality of the vaccine mandate. It is anticipated that this will not have much bearing on the legal side of the vaccine issue unless the warrant is revoked altogether.

At present, these guidelines appear to only address the issue of agency testing for their unvaccinated employees or those showing symptoms of Covid-19. On the contrary, it seems to be the first step towards the return of the federal workforce rather than separating vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.

Outlook

It is unclear whether these guidelines will apply retroactively to employees who have been disciplined for failing to comply with testing and reporting requirements, as it mainly depends on the reason for the punishment. Generally, whatever guidelines are in place at the time dictate each case, so without the complete reversal of the entire vaccine mandate, there is little room for legal recourse for a federal employee who was punished for refusing to test or vaccinate.

Despite the latest August deadline for agencies to stop their Covid-19 testing requirements, it appears that many agencies are still changing their approaches to match the administration’s new testing and reporting policies. Considering that the virus threat has begun to wane — in part due to higher vaccination rates and better medical care — it wouldn’t really be surprising to see the CDC and the task force release more self-care guidance from Covid-19 with agencies also adopting their pre-Covid employment policies.

Either way, the best advice for federal employees and contractors right now is to stay in touch with their superiors and stay abreast of any further legal developments to best protect their careers and health. global.

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

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Author Information

Stephanie Rapp-Tully is a partner at Tully Rinckey, where she focuses her practice on federal labor and employment law, regularly representing employees before the United States District Courts, Courts of Appeals, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Merit Systems Protection Board.


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