Small businesses face new challenges and scrutiny in federal contracting, strict and costly compliance and regulations, whether the looming Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) program or heightened Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) requirements. Now we have Executive Order (EO) 14042. Over the last month, Conceras attended several government and industry webinars to gain insights and guidance on EO 14042 requirements. We also consulted with our Professional Employer Organization (PEO) and used SHRM resources to develop internal corporate policies. In this post, I discuss Conceras’ approach to updating company policies and handbook, communicating EO policy to employees, handling medical and religious exemptions, and modifying existing contracts and subcontracts.
For a quick review, On September 9, 2021, The President signed EO 14042 on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors. The EO directs contractors to ensure that all employees are vaccinated by December 8, 2021. Unless there is a legal exemption, the mandate applies to any contractor employee working on a contract or subcontract, or a contractor employee working “in connection with a covered contract” (think corporate overhead pool). In addition, the EO affects anyone who encounters individuals at contractor facilities. So, EO 14042 pretty much covers most people in federal contracting.
President Biden’s EO directs Executive Departments and Agencies to include clauses in all covered contracts and contract-like instruments requiring contractors to comply with guidance issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. “Covered contractors” shall comply with several compliance requirements, including: 1) ensuring employees are fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021 (requirement flows down to subcontractors); 2) instructing employees to follow CDC protocols as described in Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance; 3) designating a lead person for compliance with the mandate; and 4) extending vaccination protocols to employees who work from home.
Conceras decided to not include our Federal Contractor COVID-19 Vaccination Policy in the official employee handbook, but rather as an appended policy, just in case the EO is overturned. In our policy, we discuss scope of the EO and vaccination procedures. Conceras highlights important vaccination dates to comply with the policy, as illustrated in below table.
|Manufacturer||1st dose no later than||2nd dose no later than||Date fully vaccinated|
|Johnson & Johnson||November 24th||n/a||December 8th|
|Pfizer||November 3rd||November 24th||December 8th|
|Moderna||October 27th||November 24th||December 8th|
In addition, Conceras’ COVID-19 Vaccination Policy highlights submission of official vaccination documentation to our COVID-19 Workplace Safety Coordinator. We discuss employee exemptions due to medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs and how to complete accommodation forms and submit to the human resources department.
As part of our employee communication strategy, Conceras intends to send out an updated employee handbook with appended COVID-19 Vaccination Policy on October 28, 2021. We will upload documents into our HR Portal where employees will see a to-do list and receipt acknowledgement. Conceras will address our Paid Time Off (PTO) policy for scheduling vaccinations and recovering from vaccinations.
There are many questions with respect to medical and religious exemptions. Will medical accommodations be granted to pregnant or nursing mothers? Will employees with medical and religious exemptions be required to show ongoing negative COVID-19 test results? Conceras closely monitors task force guidance on these topics. SHRM provides excellent guidance and direction for exemptions. Conceras developed an exemption letter template and request form to be completed by employee and immediate supervisor. I’m not a legal expert but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. During my research, based on religious beliefs under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title VII, federal law allows vaccine exemptions for employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission confirmed this exemption in May 2021. The commission stated:
“Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations
The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council required the establishment of the new EO clause by October 8, 2021. Conceras received first contract modifications from the government on October 15, 2021. The contract modification directed Conceras to flow clauses down to subcontractors at all tiers, to include 1099s. Subcontractors that provide products are exempt – is that fair? There are important dates to remember. November 14, 2021 is the deadline for signed contract modifications. On November 15, 2021, companies will not be eligible for new work if contract modifications are not signed. Of importance, a Contracting Officer (CO) cannot ask vaccination status of a particular employee. Conceras can say “yes” or “no” with respect to compliance. The government cannot request to see medical vaccination records.
I pay attention to ongoing state lawsuits. According to the federal mandate, state laws do not matter. If you are a federal contractor and do not comply with EO 14042 clauses, you will not be eligible for federal contracts. How is your company handling EO compliance? Does your company expect to lose a significant number of employees from the workforce due to the EO? Please leave comments or suggestions below.