New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on December 6 that employees (1) not previously covered under the existing “Key to NYC” vaccination requirements and (2) who perform in-person work for private businesses in the city must receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by December 27. The “Key to NYC” requirements currently in place for restaurants, fitness facilities, and entertainment venues have also been expanded to require proof of two doses (for individuals receiving a two-dose series) by that date, where previously only proof of an initial dose was required.
In an interview and subsequent press release and press conference, Mayor de Blasio announced that beginning December 27, 2021:
At his press conference, the mayor noted that the city would issue new guidance and rules on December 15, 2021 (hereafter, “Forthcoming Rules”) that will apply to “everyone universally in the private sector.”
As noted above, most significantly, New York City will require all private sector employees who report to work in person—such as those who work in an office setting—to be fully vaccinated. According to the city’s press release, the mandate will apply to roughly 184,000 businesses.
At his press conference, Mayor de Blasio clarified that the Forthcoming Rules
The mayor noted that the Forthcoming Rules will outline a process for employees to request a “reasonable accommodation” but did not elaborate as to who may be eligible to receive a reasonable accommodation or how that term will be defined, or provide information on potentially appropriate reasonable accommodations.
Although the Forthcoming Rules are yet to be issued, based on existing Key to NYC requirements, approved vaccinations likely will include any vaccine authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the World Health Organization (WHO).
Sufficient proof of vaccination will likely involve at least one of the following:
Separately, Mayor de Blasio announced an expansion of the Key to NYC vaccination requirements for indoor entertainment/recreation, dining, and fitness settings.
Beginning December 27, all individuals who enter the indoor area of a covered business will be required to show proof of full vaccination. Previously, patrons were only required to show proof of one dose of an approved vaccine. In addition, children between the ages of 5–11—previously exempt from the requirements—will be required to show proof of at least one dose of an approved vaccine.
Mayor de Blasio explained that there would be penalties under the order for non-compliance but that the city’s focus would be on warnings and improving compliance—not on penalizing employers. Under the existing Key to NYC requirements, which have been enforced through city inspectors, noncompliant covered businesses are subject to a fine of $1,000 per violation. Repeated violations may result in increased fines or other enforcement action. Under the Key to NYC guidance, each instance of covered business failing to check an individual’s vaccination status constitutes a separate violation.
Although many questions remain unanswered (e.g., guidance on methods of proof and identification, application to visitors/third parties, notice/posting/policy requirements, exemptions, and accommodations), until the Forthcoming Rules are issued, private sector employers in New York City should begin planning for compliance with the employee mandate by December 27, including determining the vaccination status of employees and preparing to require proof of vaccination for entry.
Morgan Lewis is actively monitoring for further developments and will issue additional guidance and prepare template compliant policies when the Forthcoming Rules are issued.
We have developed many customizable resources to support employers’ efforts in safely returning themselves and their employees to the workplace. These include tracking of state and local orders on vaccine restrictions and return-to-work requirements; policy templates and guidelines for key topics such as vaccine mandates, mask requirements, and social distancing procedures; and webinar training on return-to-work safety measures. View the full list of return-to-work resources and consult our workplace reopening checklist.
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Leni D. Battaglia