The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued guidance regarding what is required of federal contractors with respect to a vaccine mandate for employees as a result of President Biden’s Executive Order 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors.
As part of the guidance, "[t]he actions directed by the order will ensure that parties who contract with the Federal Government provide COVID-19 safeguards in workplaces with individuals working on or in connection with a Federal Government contract or contract-like instrument. These workplace safety protocols will apply to all covered contractor employees, including contractor or subcontractor employees in covered contractor workplaces who are not working on a Federal Government contract or contract-like instrument."
According to the guidance, federal contractors and subcontractors with a covered contract will be required to conform to the following workplace safety protocols:
- COVID-19 vaccination of covered contractor employees, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to accommodation;
- Compliance by individuals, including covered contractor employees and visitors, with the Guidance related to masking and physical distancing while in covered contractor workplaces;
- Designation by covered contractors of a person or persons to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts at covered contractor workplaces.
The Associated Builders and Contractors, concerned by the guidance, released a statement in response.
“ABC continues to encourage construction industry stakeholders to get vaccinated because ensuring healthy and safe work environments for employees is a top priority of ABC and its members,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC VP of regulatory, labor and state affairs. “However, today’s Task Force guidance is very broad in scope and raises a number of unresolved questions.
“We will be reviewing the guidance carefully with industry stakeholders to understand its full impact and unintended consequences,” Brubeck added. “However, based on our initial reading, this guidance will result in additional compliance burdens, exacerbate the construction industry’s skilled workforce shortage and increase costs for federal contractors and taxpayers.
“This is a top issue for the contracting community and adds to a list of concerns,” Brubeck continued. “As with most industries, the COVID-19 pandemic has already created and accelerated a host of challenges facing the construction industry, which includes a skilled workforce shortage, rising material costs, supply chain disruptions, jobsite shut-downs, additional health and safety protocols and new government regulations.
“In general, ABC is philosophically opposed to federal mandates that undermine the desired policy outcome,” Brubeck noted. “Looking forward, ABC plans to participate in the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council’s rulemaking process for this rule and will be fully engaged in the forthcoming OSHA ETS rule applying to all employers with 100 or more employees.
“ABC will be sharing our detailed concerns with Biden administration officials and evaluating legal and compliance options for both rules," he concluded.
ABC said it sent a letter to OMB and the Task Force on behalf of its federal contractor members with practical feedback on the EO, which includes 25 questions and concerns raised by the federal contracting community since the EO’s release on Sept. 9.
In its letter, ABC said it urges the Task Force "to consider the negative and disruptive impacts that a federal contractor employee vaccination requirement will have on labor availability for the construction industry as this could undermine economy and efficiency in federal contracting of construction services."