Last month, President Joe Biden announced a safety mandate that affects federal employees, as well as contractors who work on federal sites. According to the mandate, these workers must either a) confirm they have received the COVID-19 vaccination, or b) agree to wear masks at all times and be regularly screened for the coronavirus.
He followed that up with a vaccine mandate for all federal workers and contractors.
What does this mean for roofing contractors and other construction workers with federal contracts?
What the Policy States
According to this new policy, along with federal employees, federal contractors working on-site must sign a form attesting to their vaccination status. If they cannot confirm they are fully vaccinated, they are required to wear masks while at the federal workplace, practice physical distancing, and undergo either weekly or twice-weekly COVID-19 screenings. Unvaccinated federal contractors will also experience official travel restrictions.
Even visitors to federal facilities are required to comply with safety measures. For example, they must sign the vaccination confirmation form or, if not applicable, must wear masks on-site and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the previous three days.
In addition, Biden requested that the administration begin applying similar requirements to all federal contractors, even if they do not work at federal facilities. He also has instructed the Department of Defense to review adding the COVID-19 vaccine to those immunizations required for military service members.
The White House established the Safe Federal Workplace Task Force to provide safety guidance during the pandemic. This group has indicated that each federal agency must create a program for testing federal contractors and employees who are not vaccinated or decline to share their status.
How Contractors Can Respond
Since federal contractors employ approximately a quarter of the U.S. workforce, this directive affects a large group. These workers represent a variety of industries, including manufacturing and construction.
The new policy, at present, has different standards for contractors working on-site and those who do not, which will be a logistical challenge for those monitoring their compliance with the vaccination status confirmation. In many cases, contractors work at federal facilities on a regular basis, but others are needed less consistently, which also complicates the issue. In addition, agencies will need to determine who does the necessary testing and where.
Some federal contractors have already made the decision to require all their workers to be fully vaccinated. And it sounds as though the White House may issue an across-the-board requirement soon.
If you and your workers are under a federal contract, it is likely in your best interest to review your current vaccination and mask policy, then make changes to it to comply with this new directive. Take stock of how many workers are vaccinated, and determine how you can track those who are not. You will need to ensure they follow the mask and testing requirements.
Although some argue that this policy is a case of government overreach, there may be little recourse. To protect your livelihood, it is essential that you retain your government contracts by complying with the new directive.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.