New York City Mandates Vaccines for All Private Employers

Author: Emily Scace, XpertHR Legal Editor

December 7, 2021

Citing the ongoing threat of the coronavirus and the emerging hazard of the Omicron variant, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced a broad vaccine mandate for private employers - the first of its kind in the nation.

Effective December 27, 2021, all employees at private-sector businesses in New York City must have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The mandate covers businesses of all sizes and industries operating in the city.

Further details of the mandate will be announced on December 15, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Currently, 82% of adult city residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while an additional 7.5% are partially vaccinated.

De Blasio expressed confidence that the mandate will survive any legal challenges it faces because it is "consistent and universal," in contrast to the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which targets businesses with 100 or more employees. The OSHA ETS is currently stayed pending the outcome of consolidated litigation in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

While the OSHA ETS gives businesses the option of implementing a mandatory vaccine policy or allowing employees to choose between vaccination and weekly testing, it remains to be seen whether the New York City mandate will include a testing option and how it will handle requests for exemptions for religious or medical reasons. Also unknown is whether the city's mandate will exempt fully remote workers and those who work exclusively outside, as OSHA's ETS does.

New York City's move stands in contrast to a growing number of states that have acted swiftly to limit or prohibit employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees. Some states have required employers to allow employees to opt out of vaccination on the basis of prior COVID-19 infection, personal beliefs and other grounds not typically recognized as protected characteristics under federal law.