New York City will no longer require private employers to direct workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19, Mayor Eric Adams announced Sept. 20.
“Businesses up until this point have had mixed approaches about whether or not a vaccine mandate is even relevant at this point, given that most employers have not been tracking the rate at which employees have been boosted,” said Ian Carleton Schaefer, an attorney with Loeb & Loeb in New York. “Today’s announcement, following on the heels of announcements of other financial institutions and employers who unilaterally ended their own vaccine mandates, is an effort to reinvigorate New York City and revitalize the economic infrastructure, bringing normalcy to the workplace after almost three years of disruption.”
Different courts across the country have had varied responses to vaccine requirements this year, causing some uncertainty for employers that operate in multiple states.
Ending Vaccine Requirement
With the new bivalent boosters now available, and now that 89 percent of New York City residents, including children, had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Adams said it was time to usher in flexibility for parents and businesses, although he left a vaccine requirement for city workers in place. Starting on Nov. 1, businesses, including restaurants, will no longer have to check workers’ vaccine cards. Health care workers, however, are still required to be vaccinated under a state rule.
Adams announced Tuesday that the strictest-in-the-nation COVID-19 vaccine requirements for private businesses—implemented by his predecessor Bill de Blasio—will end on Nov. 1. It’s not clear how many private-sector employees lost their jobs over the mandate, or what might happen now that it’s over. The municipal mandate has led to the termination of more than 1,500 city employees.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear an NYPD detective’s challenge to New York City’s vaccine requirement for municipal workers. Last month, Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a request by Det. Anthony Marciano to take up his legal challenge. But Marciano resubmitted the exact same request to Justice Clarence Thomas, and the high court’s press office confirmed Tuesday the case will be deliberated at a conference Oct. 7.
New Boosters Available
Adams strongly encouraged New Yorkers to get a bivalent booster shot, aimed at protecting against highly transmissible COVID-19 variants. According to data from the city health department, the city’s COVID-19 death and hospitalization rates have trended steadily downward for months. However, dozens of New Yorkers are still dying from the virus every week, the data shows.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) vaccine-or-testing rule for large employers, but it allowed the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to require COVID-19 vaccination for health care workers at Medicare- and Medicaid-certified providers and suppliers.
Ending Vaccine Requirement for Federal Contractors
On Aug. 31, the Biden administration updated its guidance on the federal contractor COVID-19 vaccine requirement. According to the new guidance, the federal government will take no action to implement or enforce the vaccine requirement for federal contractors under existing contracts.
Two Court Cases
The NorthShore University Health System in Illinois recently signed a $10.3 million settlement to end a lawsuit over its COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Employees brought a class-action lawsuit after they were denied a religious exemption to the system’s vaccine policy. The settlement represents the nation’s first class-action lawsuit for health care workers over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Meanwhile, an Indianapolis pediatrician terminated for declining to receive a COVID-19 vaccine despite a hospital’s vaccination requirement did not persuade the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that he was entitled to immediate relief.