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Federal Contractor Vaccination Deadline Extended to January 4, 2022

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The White House has announced that the requirement for covered employees at covered federal contractor workplaces to be fully vaccinated under the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors (the “Contractor Guidance”) has been extended to January 4, 2022. In short, under this new announcement covered employees must have their final vaccination dose – either the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson – by January 4, 2022, rather than by the previous deadline of December 8, 2021.

This announcement comes alongside the release of the preliminary text of OSHA’s long-awaited ETS on COVID-19 vaccination, testing and face coverings for all employers with 100 or more employees (the final rule will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, November 5, 2021). Of relevance for federal contractors, the preliminary text of the ETS states that it will not apply to workplaces covered under the Contractor Guidance (or settings where employees provide healthcare services or healthcare support services, which are subject to a separate, newly-released ETS for health care facilities). See proposed 29 C.F.R. § 1910.501(b)(2).

White House senior administration officials have said that the reason for the change is to make it easier for employers to comply with the requirements and avoid situations of employers having to track compliance status across different deadlines. They also anticipate that “contractors may have some workplaces subject to requirements for federal contractors and other workplaces subject to the newly-released COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing ETS.” However, they hope that employers will not wait until January 4th, and that their workers will get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Although the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has not yet updated its Contractor Guidance to reflect this new deadline, we anticipate that update will be coming soon, which will codify the new compliance date through the FAR clauses incorporated into federal contracts. However, while this overarching change provides contractor employees with some additional time to comply with the vaccination mandate, contractors should be award that agencies may still set compliance deadlines that required contractor action prior to January 4. We are aware that some agencies and contracting officers already have established certain deadlines for actions in response to the Executive Order and Contractor Guidance relating to vaccination status verification and accommodation request status. These deadlines may be adjusted on a case-by-case basis, so it is important for contractors to continue to track these deadlines and to maintain open dialogues with their customers regarding their good faith efforts to comply with these new requirements.

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.