On February 1, 2021, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) opened its new Federal Contractor Portal (Portal) for one-time registration and updated its website landing page with a Federal Contractor User Guide and additional FAQs. As previously reported, the OFCCP has implemented an annual affirmative action plan (AAP) certification process, which requires covered federal contractors and subcontractors (contractors) to register for the Portal and then annually certify they are meeting their existing requirement to develop and maintain annual AAPs. At this time, the Portal is open only for registration — it will not open for certification until March 31, 2022. The OFCCP encourages contractors to complete registration by March 30, 2022 to avoid any delays in the certification process.
On December 7, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia issued a preliminary injunction temporarily in Georgia v. Biden, halting the enforcement of Executive Order 14042 (EO 14042) nationwide. In doing so, the court joined the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, which issued a preliminary injunction in Kentucky v. Biden last week halting the enforcement of EO 14042 in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
Seven states — Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia — the governors of several of those states, and various state agencies filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of Georgia, challenging EO 14042 and requesting that the court issue a preliminary injunction. The Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC), a trade organization, moved to intervene in the action, and the court granted ABC’s request. In granting the preliminary injunction, the court determined that the plaintiffs met each of these required elements: (1) likelihood of success; (2) irreparable harm; (3) the balance of the harm; and (4) public interest.
On December 2, 2021, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) officially announced its long-awaited annual affirmative action plan (AAP) certification process, which will require federal contractors and subcontractors (contractors) to register with its new Contractor Portal beginning in 2022.
The Contractor Portal will require covered contractors to certify whether they are meeting their existing requirement to develop and maintain annual AAPs. Specifically, contractors that hold a contract of $50,000 or more and employ 50 or more employees must develop and maintain AAPs pursuant to Executive Order 11246 and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If a contractor has at least 50 employees and a contract of $150,000 or more, then it must also develop an AAP pursuant to the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. While contractors already certify AAP compliance, at least implicitly, as a part of the regular contracting process, this new requirement necessarily imposes an added obligation to conduct the appropriate diligence required in order to certify accurately and explicitly. As such, contractors need to be particularly mindful of False Claims Act exposure in the event of an inaccurate or false certification.
This week, federal district courts issued multiple preliminary injunctions temporarily halting the enforcement of two federal vaccine mandates: Executive Order 14042 (EO 14042), which requires certain federal contractors to ensure that their employees are vaccinated, and the interim final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which requires staff at health care facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs to be vaccinated (CMS rule). The current preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of EO 14042 applies only to Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. The combination of the preliminary injunctions preventing the enforcement of the CMS rule, however, applies nationwide.