Federal Contractor COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Looks to Return in Certain States, With Potential Updates
October 26, 2022
The nationwide injunction regarding enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors has been lifted and now only the following states are covered by the injunction: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming, Federal contractors in all other states are now subject to the mandate again. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has issued guidance about its intentions and course of action following the lifting of the nationwide injunction.
The new Task Force guidance provides that the federal government will resume enforcing Executive Order 14042’s vaccine mandate. Before the government does so, however, the Task Force outlines a three-step process that will occur:
- First, the Office of Management and Budget will notify federal agencies regarding their obligations to comply with the remaining injunctions against Executive Order 14042, which continue in effect.
- Second, the Task Force will update its guidance regarding COVID-19 safety protocols for federal contractor and sub-contractor workplaces. Due to the injunctions, the Task Force has not updated its contractor guidance since November 2021, despite great changes in the state of the COVID-19 pandemic since that time. The October 14, 2022 notice does not provide any hints as to what types of updates the Task Force may make.
- Third, and finally, OMB will provide additional guidance to federal agencies regarding the resumption of enforcement of contract clauses implementing Executive Order 14042’s requirements. Prior to this notice, the federal government will continue to not enforce any of Executive Order 14042’s requirements.
The timeframes under which these steps will occur are not defined by the Task Force’s notice.
All other contractors not covered by pending injunctions will need to resume their efforts to comply with Executive Order 14042. That said, it is unknown at this time how the Task Force will modify its guidance. For example, will the Task Force now require that covered contractor employees obtain booster shots, in addition to the initial vaccination. Although the exact contours of the modified guidance are important, there are steps federal contractors can take to begin preparing now, to avoid being caught under potentially short deadlines as the three-step process unfolds over an unknown timeline.