The federal district court in Georgia that issued a nationwide temporary hold on the federal contractor COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccine mandate in December 2021 recently clarified that its ruling was limited to vaccinations only, and not the other portions of the mandate, which address masks, physical distancing, and designation of a COVID-19 coordinator (Georgia v. Biden, SD Ga, Jan. 2022).
So far, the Safer Federal Workforce web page for contractors hasn’t been updated to reflect this clarification, so we don’t know whether the federal government will begin enforcing those additional requirements. It remains to be seen whether the three other federal district courts that issued their own temporary holds on the vaccine mandate for companies with covered federal contracts take a similar approach. As we previously reported, the Georgia federal district court’s ruling was nationwide. The other courts limited their rulings to smaller geographic areas, as follows:
Missouri federal district court: This court temporarily halted the “vaccine mandate” for covered federal contractors in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming (Missouri v. Biden, ED Mo, Dec. 2021). It’s unclear whether this includes only the vaccination portion of the mandate.
Kentucky federal district court: As we previously reported, this court temporarily halted the “vaccine mandate” for all covered federal contracts in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee (Kentucky v. Biden, ED Ky, Nov. 2021). It’s unclear whether this includes only the vaccination portion of the mandate.
Florida federal district court: This court’s ruling is limited to Florida, where the federal government is forbidden (for now) from enforcing “any contract clause requiring compliance with the COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors described in Executive Order No. 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors” (Florida v. Nelson, MD Fla, Dec. 2021). This appears to cover all of the requirements in the mandate.
Tips: For information on all of the COVID-19 requirements for federal contractors, see our Alert (September 28, 2021) as well as the Safer Federal Workforce COVID-19 Workplace Safety Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors (updated November 10, 2021) and FAQs for Federal Contractors. If you already signed a federal contract or subcontract incorporating any provisions related to the vaccine mandate, you should assess whether any of these obligations are on hold. You may need to check with the federal contracting officer to find out what position they’re taking. If you weren’t legally covered by the mandate but voluntarily signed a contract agreeing to implement the requirements anyway, the other party to the contract may be able to hold you to the agreement. Your general business counsel should be able to advise you on navigating any potential contract disputes.