Employer Alert – Action Required – Vaccine Mandate to go Into Effect for all Private Employers in New York City

On December 6, 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City would become the first locality in the nation to institute a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for all private sector workers, which will go into effect on December 27, 2021 and apply to all in-person employees who are in a workplace with other co-workers.  All such employees must have received at least one dose of the vaccine by that date.

Mayor de Blasio and New York City Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi, have said the mandate is intended to combat another wave of Covid-19 cases in the winter months, particularly in light of concerns surrounding the emergence of the Omicron variant.  Mayor de Blasio stated that the measure would be effective because the universal standard would prevent vaccine hesitant employees from seeking new employment rather than getting vaccinated.  New York City’s mandate fills a void left by the stay of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private employers with 100 or more employees.  It appears New York City’s mandate will apply to employers of any size.

Many New York City employers already have vaccine mandates in place, but these may include testing alternatives.  Mayor de Blasio indicated that the City’s mandate will not include an option for unvaccinated employees to submit to testing.  The City has not yet provided further details on enforcement of the mandate, though it stated that more specific rules regarding the mandate will be released on December 15.

Like vaccine mandates in other sectors and jurisdictions, this mandate for private sector workers is sure to face legal challenges, but the City feels that it is on solid legal ground.  “The commissioner of health has the authority to issue a mandate like this to protect the public health and his authority to do that has been upheld time and again,” said the City’s Corporate Counsel, likely referring to the City’s legal victories regarding its vaccine mandate for indoor dining, fitness and entertainment, as well as for public school teachers and staff.

New York City employers cannot stand by while these matters work their way through the courts, so they should act swiftly to implement the mandate for their workers by the upcoming December 27 deadline.  As a reminder, New York employers are required to provide up to 4 hours of paid leave to employees for each vaccination appointment.

This article is intended as a general discussion of these issues only and is not to be considered legal advice or relied upon. For more information, please contact RPJ Attorney Jill Kahn Marshall who counsels both companies and individuals on employment matters. Ms. Marshall is admitted to practice law in New York and Massachusetts. Attorney Advertising.

Research contributed by Anna Beckelman.