What we know so far about NYC’s sweeping new Covid vaccine mandate

On his way out the door, Mayor Bill de Blasio calls for a “preemptive strike” against a possible winter surge.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

“There’s always something new!” That’s how Marissa Mastroianni, an associate at employment law firm Cole Schotz, answered the phone to discuss the newly announced New York City vaccination mandate for private-sector workers.

More mandates: On Monday morning, in response to rising Covid-19 cases in NYC, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new vaccination-mandate scheduled to go into effect on December 27. It requires all workers at the city’s 184,000 private-sector businesses to have at least one shot prior to reporting for in-person work. There is no testing option. This is an expansion of current policies requiring the city’s public-sector workforce to get vaccinated; as of Monday, 94% of city workers had complied.

The city will provide more guidance for employers on December 15, de Blasio said.

Red light, green light. HR teams for NYC–based organizations are likely discussing whether to move full steam ahead with implementation or wait and see. Mastroianni advises all companies to talk to their legal counsel, but has some thoughts to share from an attorney’s perspective.

...Have a vaccine mandate? Red light. The city will clarify the scope of the mandate in a week. Mastroianni is “almost 100% positive the mandate will be challenged in court,” and  Mayor-elect Eric Adams, whose first term begins January 1, hasn’t confirmed he will continue the mandate in 2022. (Adams’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Mastroianni said this means “theoretically, this could be a law that’s in effect for four days.” Employers with vaccine mandates have probably “done most of the legwork” required. They could wait and see what happens—this approach is one favored by 32% percent of US employers, according to a recent survey by Willis Towers Watson, as the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate is tied up in court.

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...No mandate, but can work remotely? Red light. If work can easily transition to WFH, Mastroianni says maybe wait for the December 15 guidance: “Okay, worst-case scenario, then you have some people working remotely for a few weeks in January, right?”

...No mandate, can’t work remotely? GREEN LIGHT. Mastroianni tells HR Brew that, in her opinion, employers without an existing vaccination policy that requires in-person work, like manufacturers, should “get [their] policy out as soon as possible” to limit “dead time.”

The first step for HR, if they haven’t done so already, is to assess what percentage of their workforce is vaccinated, Mastroianni said

“At the very least over the next day or two, employers need to send out some sort of company-wide email or communication that asks people for their vaccination status,” Mastroianni suggested. “If their workforce is 95% vaccinated, well, I think they’re gonna feel okay. But if their workforce is not highly vaccinated, then there’s a lot of work to be done.”

BTW: During a Wednesday-morning press conference, de Blasio said 70% of NYC residents, including eligible children, are fully vaccinated for Covid-19—a rate that’s higher than the US national average of 60%.—SV

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Contact Susanna Vogel via the encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram (@SusannaVogel) or simply email [email protected].

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