White House Gives Federal Contractors Leeway on Vaccine Mandate
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Federal contractors can use their discretion in deciding how to handle employees who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to new guidance released by the White House on Monday.
Employers don’t have to follow a particular protocol if an employee declines to get vaccinated and doesn’t have a pending accommodation request. The Biden administration suggests counseling and education, then additional disciplinary measures, if necessary.
Firing an unvaccinated employee should only occur after ongoing noncompliance, the White House said in the update.
The federal contractor guidelines are stricter than the forthcoming vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees, which allows for regular testing as an alternative to vaccination, according to CNBC. The Labor Department is finalizing those rules, which are expected to be published in the coming days.
The White House released the federal contractor guidance on Monday after employers requested more details for implementing a vaccine mandate. The Biden administration announced in September that federal contractors would be required to mandate their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8.
Senior Biden administration officials explained that Dec. 8 isn’t a hard deadline for all employees to be fully vaccinated, CNBC reported. Rather, contractors must show that they are making efforts to ensure employees are getting vaccinated and putting plans in place for masking and social distancing policies for those who are unvaccinated.
“In most circumstances, individuals who are not fully vaccinated need to follow applicable masking, physical distancing, and testing protocols,” according to the guidelines.
Federal contractors don’t have to show proof of vaccination rates by the deadline, a senior administration official told CNBC. But employers that don’t comply with the mandate could lose federal contracts.
Based on the new guidance, federal contractors can bar unvaccinated employees from entering a federal workplace. Employers can also determine whether an employee’s claimed exemption, such as a medical condition or religious accommodation, is legitimate. Employers can grant short extensions for medical reasons, like if a worker received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma for COVID-19 treatment.
The vaccine requirements must be reflected in new federal contracts beginning Nov. 14, according to Roll Call. For contracts signed between Oct. 15 and Nov. 14, employers can encourage vaccination. Employers are also strongly encouraged to incorporate a vaccination requirement into contracts not specifically covered by the Biden administration’s executive order, such as subcontracts for product manufacturing.
Across four separate lawsuits, 19 states have sued the Biden administration, arguing that the vaccine mandate is unconstitutional and an overreach of federal power. The Biden administration has said that the vaccine requirements supersede states laws that bar compliance with vaccine mandates or other COVID-19 protocols.
Safer Federal Workforce: “FAQs: Federal Contractors.”
CNBC: “Federal contractors get broad flexibility to enforce Covid vaccine rules for millions of workers.”
Roll Call: “Biden gives contractors leeway on COVID-19 vaccine mandate.”
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