December 10, 2021 UPDATE: Governor Kathy Hochul Implements a Statewide Mask Mandate

At her press conference held on December 10, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that effective Monday, December 13, 2021 masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places, unless the business or venue implements a vaccine requirement. This mask requirement is for all individuals aged 2 and older. The mask requirement will be in effect until January 15, 2022, and may be extended depending on public health conditions. Employers who do not have a vaccine requirement for all employees should circulate a notice to their employees and customers advising that effective Monday, December 13, 2021, all employees must wear a mask while working indoors in the office. This mask requirement extends to all employees and customers, regardless of their vaccination status.

New York City Imposes a Mandatory Vaccination Policy on All Private Employers

Effective December 27, 2021, all private employers in New York City will be required to implement a vaccine requirement for their employees who work onsite. The exact requirements of this vaccine mandate, how it will be implemented, and the penalties for not complying are unknown. Further guidance is expected to be published by the city on or about December 15, 2021. Employers in New York City who do not have a vaccine mandate should start to prepare to implement this new policy. One such step employers may want to take is to request that employees provide proof of vaccination. Employers are reminded that, as proof of vaccination includes sensitive medical information, copies of the vaccination proof must be maintained separately from personnel files and only shared on a need-to-know basis. Also, employees’ vaccination status cannot be shared with other employees.

Additionally, looking to NYC’s existing vaccine mandate for indoor dining, gyms and indoor entertainment, employees who are unable to demonstrate proof of vaccination because of a disability, pregnancy, religious belief, or your status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sex offenses may be able to request a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodations can take many forms. For example, an employee could work remotely, perform their job duties outside the indoor portion of the premises or in an area isolated from other employees, or take a leave of absence. However, an employer does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation if doing so would create a direct threat to other customers or employees of the business, or impose an undue hardship on the business. Accordingly, it is within the business’s discretion to determine whether and what reasonable accommodations it can provide to those employees who will be unable to comply with a vaccine mandate. Further, employers are permitted to request documentation to support the reasonable accommodation request. It is expected that the December 15th guidance published by the City will provide further direction on how employers should handle reasonable accommodation requests.

Further, as with the federal vaccine mandate that was quickly stayed by the federal courts, it is anticipated that there will be litigation on NYC’s vaccine mandate, and all court filings will be closely followed by this office.

The attorneys in Forchelli Deegan Terrana LLP’s Employment & Labor department continue to closely monitor the ongoing COVID-19 developments and regulations imposed on employers, and will provide further guidance on these and any other regulations imposed by the federal, state and local governments. Employers with questions about these new mandates and any other employment compliance questions should contact Gregory S. Lisi, Esq. or Lisa M. Casa, Esq. at 516-248-1700.