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New York City First in U.S. to Impose Vaccine Mandate on Businesses

December 7, 2021

New York City will become the first U.S. city to implement a vaccine mandate on all private-sector businesses beginning December 27, 2021.  Yesterday, the Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office characterized this unprecedented move as necessary to stave off the potential surge in COVID-19 cases stemming from the Omicron variant.  Yesterday’s action will impact over 184,000 businesses in NYC and will be effective just days before Mayor de Blasio leaves office.  The new mandate has two key components for New York City businesses:

Businesses Mandated to Require Vaccinations

At the press conference, the Mayor announced a first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate for private-sector workers, which will apply to roughly 184,000 New York City businesses.  This new measure goes along with the previously implemented vaccine mandate for New York City’s public sector workers.

Indoor Dining, Entertainment and Fitness Facilities

The new mandate will also impact patrons of indoor dining, entertainment, and fitness facilities. Currently, these businesses are permitted to service only individuals who have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.  The new rule will further limit access to only those who have received two doses of the vaccine (except for those who received the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine).  Additionally, children between the ages 5 and 11 will need to show proof of at least one dose of the vaccine beginning on December 14, 2021, to gain access to these facilities. 

There will not be a testing option for the unvaccinated for either of these initiatives.  As of now, no statement has been made on any penalties/fines for non-compliance. Guidance on enforcement is scheduled to be release on December 15, 2021.

Legal challenges and Support

It is uncertain whether incoming mayor, Eric Adams, supports these mandates and will keep them in place when he takes office.  The more immediate issue is the mandate is sure to face legal challenges much in the same way President Biden’s federal mandates are being challenged.    

As we have previously written (click here to read article), the Biden administration has also attempted to require a private-sector vaccine mandate or testing for all private-sector employers with more than 100 employees. However, recently a federal court stayed implementation of this mandate.  Vaccination mandates for federal contractors has also just been stayed across the country by a federal District Court in Georgia.  Separate actions challenging the federal mandates for health-care workers are also pending.  Despite the current mandate challenges on the federal level, Mayor de Blasio is confident that the City’s health commissioner has the legal authority to issue yesterday’s mandates.  While it is quite possible the City will ultimately prevail with the implementation of these recent mandates, one thing is certain; New York City should expect a battle and delays in the process.

The subject matter of COVID-19 posts is often very technical. It is also an evolving area of science and law and very fact specific.  Our goal here is to simply alert you to some of the key issues involved. We urge you to seek competent legal counsel before applying these ideas to your specific situation.  Since March 2020, we have had a team of attorneys focusing on COVID-19 related developments and they continue to stand ready to help you with any issues involving the pandemic.