Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that will apply to all private employers in New York City. The Mayor announced the mandate as a “first in the nation measure,” and a “preemptive strike” in response to challenges posed by the new Omicron variant, colder weather, and holiday gatherings. The mandate will apply to all private employers in New York City and becomes effective December 27, 2021. While the Mayor did confirm at a press conference that there will not be a test-out option, the mandate will apply to only in-office workers, and that employees need to get their first dose by December 27th, the details of the mandate otherwise remain vague at this time and will not be released until December 15th, leaving employers little time to prepare to come into compliance.
In a press release on December 6th, the Mayor confirmed that the mandate will apply to approximately 184,000 businesses – those that are not already covered by the Key to NYC initiative (e.g., fitness, dining and entertainment venues). Importantly, the press release explains that the City will issue additional enforcement and reasonable accommodation guidance on December 15th, along with additional resources to support small businesses with implementation.
Many have noted that the mandate would go into effect just days before Mayor-Elect Eric Adams takes office. When asked whether he would enforce the new mandate, a spokesperson for Mayor-Elect Adams did not answer definitively, stating instead that the Mayor-Elect intends to “evaluate this mandate and other Covid strategies when he is in office and make determinations based on science, efficacy and the advice of health professionals.”
It is also worth noting that this announcement comes on the heels of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to block OSHA from implementing its federal vaccination or test rule, which we reported on here. The fate of OSHA’s vaccine rule now lies with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which was selected to make a consolidated ruling on the mandate given that challenges to the rule were filed in multiple jurisdictions. While the Sixth Circuit’s decision will impact OSHA’s ability to mandate the vaccine on a national level, it will have little impact on the viability of New York City’s mandate or its impact on private employers within the City, although we would expect challenges to NYC’s new rule as well.
We will closely monitor for developments here, including the December 15th rules and compliance guidance release and report back accordingly.