White House Offers Federal Contractors Flexibility in Enforcing Vax Mandate

(PresidentialInsider.com)- Federal contractors will have broad leeway to enforce President Biden’s COVID vaccinate mandate, according to new guidance issued by the White House on Monday.

Under the new guidance, federal contractors like IBM, Boeing, and even food service providers will have the flexibility to determine how they enforce the vaccine requirements for workers who refuse to get the vaccine.

But even with this leeway in enforcement, federal contractors still face stricter guidelines than the one proposed for businesses with 100 or more employees. That OSHA rule allows for regular COVID testing instead of the vaccine. Businesses had previously requested that this rule not go into effect until after the holiday season over concerns that it would further complicate the current supply-chain crisis.

The White House released the federal contractor guidance Monday after contractors sought further details on how they were to implement the vaccine requirement. President Biden initially issued the executive order requiring federal contractors to ensure their employees were vaccinated on September 9. The administration set the implementation deadline for December 8.

Senior administration officials have made it clear, however, that December 8 is not a hard deadline for contractors to have all their employees fully vaccinated. Instead, contractors must demonstrate that they are making a good faith effort to ensure employees are getting vaccinated and have plans in place to ensure masking and social distancing policies in the workplace.

Federal contractors will not have to show proof of vaccination rates at the December 8 deadline. But non-compliance could result in the loss of a federal contract.

The guidelines also state that federal agencies could bar an unvaccinated contractor employee from entering a federal workplace. However, in most circumstances, unvaccinated individuals will be required to follow “applicable masking, physical distancing, and testing protocols.”

Individual contractors, and not the federal government, will be able to determine if an employee has a sincerely-held religious belief or medical condition that exempts them from the vaccine mandate. These determinations do not need to be in place when an employee begins work.

Federal contractors including Southwest and American Airlines, and aerospace giant Boeing have already announced that employees must be vaccinated by the December 8 deadline or apply for an exemption.

Some labor groups oppose the vaccine mandates, including the pilots’ unions at both American and Southwest. The pilots’ union for American Airlines went to court to bar the mandate’s implementation, however, the request was denied last week by a federal judge in Texas.