Federal contractors know all too well the list of annual requirements and obligations can seem overwhelming at times.  One that may get overlooked by some is annual training requirements. A fairly new such training went into effect in 2017 – it requires certain federal contractors to do annual data privacy training.

According to the U.S. General Services Administration (“GSA”), for example, its agency-wide and role-based training offerings cover the GSA’s policies on protecting personally identifiable information (“PII”). The GSA requires all employees and contractors to complete privacy and security awareness training upon employment and each year thereafter. Importantly,

GSA account holders must complete this training in order to maintain access to the agency’s IT systems and resources such as email, Google Drive and other IT resources.

The current political landscape (President Biden has announced heighted focus in this area, including plans for $10B of investment in government cyber and IT infrastructure), the COVID-19 pandemic where many federal contractors are receiving large amounts of sensitive information, and recent high-profile data security incidents involving the U.S. government, like SolarWinds, provide further reasons to support a business imperative to bolster the privacy and security awareness of your workforce.  Therefore, we recommend following the below steps to ensure your teams are training in this critical area.

  1. Identify if requirements apply, and who needs training

In general, annual privacy training is required for any federal contractor employee who accesses, processes, or handles PII on behalf of a government agency. This includes contractor employees who have access to any system of government records, or who assist in designing, developing, maintaining, or operating a system of records. Prime contractors are required to flow down these privacy training requirements to their subcontractors.

PII is defined in this regulation as “information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, either alone or when combined with other information that is linked or linkable to a specific individual.”

Per the FAR, as noted above, contractor employees may not have access to PII unless they have had the required privacy training.

  1. What must training include

Per the FAR, training must address:

  • The contractors policies and procedures for processing and safeguarding of PII;
  • The provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974, including penalties for violations of the Act;
  • The authorized and official use of a system of records;
  • The restriction on the unauthorized use, handling disclosure, or access of PII or a system of records; and
  • The procedures to follow in the event of a suspected or confirmed breach of a system of records or PII.
  1. Understanding the requirements

A one-size-fits-all training likely will not be sufficient as the FAR requirements are described as “role based” and should be appropriate for different levels of employees. There should also be measures in place to test the knowledge of users. Contractors must also maintain and be able to provide documentation regarding the completion of the privacy training upon the request of their Contracting Officers.

  1. Format of training

Contractors may provide their own training to employees, except in the limited cases where an agency requires that certain training be utilized. Contractors can develop the content internally or use a third-party vendor or firm to do the training. Jackson Lewis provides this type of training to many of our government contractor clients.

  1. Recommended next steps for Government Contractors
  • Determine if your employees have access to PII as part of a government contract.
  • Review privacy procedures and policies to confirm compliance with training requirements.
  • If you are not currently training your employees in compliance with FAR 52.224-3, implement training program for employees handling PII.
  • Review subcontracts, as the privacy training requirements also apply to subcontractors.
  • Reach out to your local Jackson Lewis office with any questions.
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Photo of Joseph J. Lazzarotti Joseph J. Lazzarotti

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)…

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Trained as an employee benefits lawyer, focused on compliance, Joe also is a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits practice group.

In short, his practice focuses on the matrix of laws governing the privacy, security, and management of data, as well as the impact and regulation of social media. He also counsels companies on compliance, fiduciary, taxation, and administrative matters with respect to employee benefit plans.

Privacy and cybersecurity experience – Joe counsels multinational, national and regional companies in all industries on the broad array of laws, regulations, best practices, and preventive safeguards. The following are examples of areas of focus in his practice:

  • Advising health care providers, business associates, and group health plan sponsors concerning HIPAA/HITECH compliance, including risk assessments, policies and procedures, incident response plan development, vendor assessment and management programs, and training.
  • Coached hundreds of companies through the investigation, remediation, notification, and overall response to data breaches of all kinds – PHI, PII, payment card, etc.
  • Helping organizations address questions about the application, implementation, and overall compliance with European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and, in particular, its implications in the U.S., together with preparing for the California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • Working with organizations to develop and implement video, audio, and data-driven monitoring and surveillance programs. For instance, in the transportation and related industries, Joe has worked with numerous clients on fleet management programs involving the use of telematics, dash-cams, event data recorders (EDR), and related technologies. He also has advised many clients in the use of biometrics including with regard to consent, data security, and retention issues under BIPA and other laws.
  • Assisting clients with growing state data security mandates to safeguard personal information, including steering clients through detailed risk assessments and converting those assessments into practical “best practice” risk management solutions, including written information security programs (WISPs). Related work includes compliance advice concerning FTC Act, Regulation S-P, GLBA, and New York Reg. 500.
  • Advising clients about best practices for electronic communications, including in social media, as well as when communicating under a “bring your own device” (BYOD) or “company owned personally enabled device” (COPE) environment.
  • Conducting various levels of privacy and data security training for executives and employees
  • Supports organizations through mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations with regard to the handling of employee and customer data, and the safeguarding of that data during the transaction.
  • Representing organizations in matters involving inquiries into privacy and data security compliance before federal and state agencies including the HHS Office of Civil Rights, Federal Trade Commission, and various state Attorneys General.

Benefits counseling experience – Joe’s work in the benefits counseling area covers many areas of employee benefits law. Below are some examples of that work:

  • As part of the Firm’s Health Care Reform Team, he advises employers and plan sponsors regarding the establishment, administration and operation of fully insured and self-funded health and welfare plans to comply with ERISA, IRC, ACA/PPACA, HIPAA, COBRA, ADA, GINA, and other related laws.
  • Guiding clients through the selection of plan service providers, along with negotiating service agreements with vendors to address plan compliance and operations, while leveraging data security experience to ensure plan data is safeguarded.
  • Counsels plan sponsors on day-to-day compliance and administrative issues affecting plans.
  • Assists in the design and drafting of benefit plan documents, including severance and fringe benefit plans.
  • Advises plan sponsors concerning employee benefit plan operation, administration and correcting errors in operation.

Joe speaks and writes regularly on current employee benefits and data privacy and cybersecurity topics and his work has been published in leading business and legal journals and media outlets, such as The Washington Post, Inside Counsel, Bloomberg, The National Law Journal, Financial Times, Business Insurance, HR Magazine and NPR, as well as the ABA Journal, The American Lawyer, Law360, Bender’s Labor and Employment Bulletin, the Australian Privacy Law Bulletin and the Privacy, and Data Security Law Journal.

Joe served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Laura Denvir Stith on the Missouri Court of Appeals.