The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has released a set of frequently asked questions and answers (“FAQs”) regarding the Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors (the “Guidance”) it issued last week.  Our comprehensive summary of the Guidance is available here.

The new FAQs largely repackage the information provided in the Guidance.  However, they do provide additional detail and information regarding the Guidance, which includes the following.

  • Interplay with the Upcoming OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard. As previously reported, employers with 100 or more employees will be subject to a soon-to-be-issued emergency temporary standard that will include a testing option for those who choose not to vaccinate.  The new FAQs make clear that covered contractors and subcontractors (“Contractors”) must comply with the Guidelines – which do not contain a testing option –“regardless of whether they are subject to other workplace safety standards.”
  • Interplay with State and Local Laws. Many contractors have wondered how they can comply with the Guidance in jurisdictions that prohibit vaccine mandates or take adverse action against employees who refuse to vaccinate.  The new FAQs directly address this quandary, making clear that to the federal government there is an easy answer:  covered Contractors must comply with the Guidelines – the Guidelines’ “requirements are promulgated pursuant to Federal law and supersede any contrary State or local law or ordinance. Additionally, nothing in the Task Force Guidance shall excuse noncompliance with any applicable State law or municipal ordinance establishing more protective workplace safety protocols than those established under the Task Force Guidance.”
  • Monitoring Subcontractor Compliance. Covered prime contractors must ensure the requirements set forth in the Guidance are incorporated into their first-tier subcontracts and subcontractors are thereafter required to fully comply (including by flowing down the clause to lower-tier subcontractors).  The new FAQs provide that prime contractors do not have an affirmative obligation to monitor subcontractor compliance, but rather may “assume the subcontractor is complying with the [Guidance … unless] the prime contractor has credible evidence otherwise.”
  • Onsite Vaccinations. The FAQs make clear contractors do not have to provide onsite vaccination opportunities for their employees.

Even with the new FAQs, we expect additional guidance to be issued and for the Guidance itself to be updated in the coming weeks.  We will continue to monitor and report on any developments here.

In the meantime, contractors should assess the Guidelines, determine when and how they may apply to their businesses, consider what the impact of the Guidelines will mean for their businesses, and begin planning for implementation now.  From our numerous conversations with contractors since the Guidelines were issued, the new requirements present a host of practical challenges for contractors that require careful assessment of the complex and ever-changing legal landscape to determine how best to meet those challenges while also ensuring compliance.

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Photo of Guy Brenner Guy Brenner

Guy Brenner is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and leads the Firm’s Washington, D.C. Labor & Employment practice. He is head of the Government Contractor Compliance Group, co-head of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Group and a member…

Guy Brenner is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and leads the Firm’s Washington, D.C. Labor & Employment practice. He is head of the Government Contractor Compliance Group, co-head of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Group and a member of the Restrictive Covenants, Trade Secrets & Unfair Competition Group. He has extensive experience representing employers in both single-plaintiff and class action matters, as well as in arbitration proceedings. He also regularly assists federal government contractors with the many special employment-related compliance challenges they face.

Guy represents employers in all aspects of employment and labor litigation and counseling, with an emphasis on non-compete and trade secrets issues, medical and disability leave matters, employee/independent contractor classification issues, and the investigation and litigation of whistleblower claims. He assists employers in negotiating and drafting executive agreements and employee mobility agreements, including non-competition, non-solicit and non-disclosure agreements, and also conducts and supervises internal investigations. He also regularly advises clients on pay equity matters, including privileged pay equity analyses.

Guy advises federal government contractors and subcontractors all aspects of Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) regulations and requirements, including preparing affirmative action plans, responding to desk audits, and managing on-site audits.

Guy is a former clerk to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the US District Court of the District of Columbia.