New York City vaccination mandate: Will it take a bite out of the Big Apple?

Scheduled to go into effect Dec. 27, the mayor announces a mandate requiring all private-sector workers be fully vaccinated.

By Kacey Larsen      
New York City advances vaccination mandate

While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard that requires vaccinations or vaccinations and testing for employers with more than 100 employees has been stalled in the courts, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a vaccine mandate for all New York City private-sector workers. Scheduled to take effect Dec. 27, the “Key to NYC” mandate is intended as a “preemptive strike” to head off a coronavirus surge. This is expected to impact 184,000 businesses.

The “Key to NYC” mandate toughens the city’s previous stance that required proof of only one vaccination dose to adults now needing to show proof of both to enter restaurants, bars, gyms and other venues, beginning Dec. 27. Additionally, children aged 5 to 11 will now be required to show proof of one vaccination dose starting Dec. 14 for indoor dining and high-risk extracurricular activities; children ages 12 to 17 had already had this requirement which will now be increased, like adults, to full vaccination status.

During the announcement of the mandate on MSNBC, de Blasio said, “We’ve got Omicron as a new factor. We’ve got the colder weather, which is going to really create additional challenges with the delta variant, we’ve got holiday gatherings. We, in New York City, have decided to use a preemptive strike to really do something bold to stop the further growth of COVID and the dangers it’s causing to all of us.”

As for what this means for New York City businesses, the city plans to issue additional enforcement and reasonable accommodation guidance on Dec. 15, about a week and a half before the mandate is set to take effect. The mayor did note this may be challenging for smaller private businesses, especially since noncompliance in the absence of an approved exemption comes with unpaid leave, but notes his administration is working out the details with small businesses over the next days.

While there are questions around the legal authority to issue such a mandate, de Blasio and his corporation counselor, Georgia Pestana, affirmed the city’s health commissioner’s “legal right” to implement such sweeping rules. Another question lingering over the “Key to NYC” mandate is whether the Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who takes office Jan. 1, will keep the mandate in effect, considering it is set to start four days prior to his term.

What this new mandate shows, even if it faces legal challenges and possible rollbacks, is that vaccination mandates being attached to employment do not seem to be going away. Results from a recent Willis Towers Watson survey show employers are split on whether putting in place a company vaccine mandate will lead to mass resignations or help with recruiting. But if you and your organization don’t have a plan around vaccinations yet, it may be time to start making one.