On September 20, 2022, New York City (“NYC”) Mayor Eric Adams announced that the City’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for private sector employees will terminate on November 1, 2022. The private sector vaccine mandate took effect in December 2021, shortly before former Mayor Bill de Blasio left office. At the time, the mandate was one of the most far-reaching local actions in the United States, as it applied to approximately 184,000 businesses with employees who perform work in NYC.
In 2022, the trend in NYC and across the state of New York has been to relax various COVID-19-related restrictions. After taking office in January 2022, Mayor Adams ended several COVID-19 safeguards, such as requiring restaurant patrons and concert attendees to present proof of vaccination, and face mask mandates at schools. Further, although not formally rescinded, the City has not been stringently enforcing the vaccine mandate for private sector employees, and even made an exception for NYC’s professional athletes in March 2022. Similarly, at the state level, New York Governor Kathy Hochul removed the public transit mask mandate in early September 2022.
Although the private sector vaccine mandate is one of the last remaining NYC restrictions of the pandemic, there are a few others that remain in place. The mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement for city government employees, including law enforcement, teachers, and sanitation workers, will remain in effect. Further, health care workers are still required to be vaccinated under state law.
Mayor Adams has been enforcing the public sector vaccine mandate, which has resulted in more than 1,750 NYC workers being terminated as of September 14, 2022. NYC’s public sector employees have become increasingly frustrated by the selective enforcement of the City’s vaccine mandate.
The controversy regarding the public sector vaccine mandate will likely come to a resolution in the near future. Last year a NYC law enforcement officer filed suit against the City, challenging the public sector vaccine mandate. The case quickly made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will be hearing the law enforcement officer’s challenge to the public sector vaccine requirement on October 7, 2022.
The continued relaxation of various COVID-19 restrictions is an encouraging sign that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. However, businesses should continue to evaluate their COVID-19 response plans based on their individual business needs, state and local law, and employee well-being. We recommend monitoring whether any states or municipalities in which your business operates have recently updated COVID-19-related restrictions. If this has occurred, and we can be of assistance to you or your company, please contact your Foley attorney to be directed to the appropriate resource.