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How America's First Vaccine Mandate Will Impact Employers in New York

Although a federal vaccine mandate remains unsettled in court, New York City will require the vaccination of all private-sector employees against the coronavirus. New York's mayor announced on December 6 the first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate to prevent the spread of the new variant during the holiday season.

The Wall Street Journal reported that several employers in the city, such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., were caught off guard due to the short notice and lack of clarity on the rules and how they would be enforced. Employment lawyers also predict various legal issues based on these rules.

All of this could result in confrontations between employers and employees.

How will the mandate affect Employers?

Detailed rules on this new requirement, which applies to employees working in person, will be released on December 15 as the mandate will go into effect on December 27.

This mandate will impact 184,000 businesses and comes after a string of existing mandates in the city, including the requirement for adults as well as children under 11 to show proof of vaccination for indoor activities like dining, fitness, and entertainment.

Earlier, the federal government had directed OSHA to require companies with 100 or more employees to either:

  1. ensure all employees are vaccinated, or

  2. submit to weekly testing and mandatory face masks.

However, the court has since questioned the legality and ethics of mandating the vaccine for employees at the federal level. OSHA paused all mandates mid-November, which is why the New York mandate may receive pushback.

In either case, your business must be able to prepare and respond to your staff, as it's only a matter of time before the mandates are passed all over the nation. While employers aren't required to pay for testing, they do have to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects of the jab.

What can employers do to prepare for these mandates?

a) Create a framework and protocols in advance. Make sure to have protocols and processes set up to treat all employees equally, and handle liabilities relating to exemption requests and worker health information.

b) Consider OSHA fines. OSHA is similar to the IRS, but for employers only. If they come to your company looking into a complaint filed by your employees, they may do more digging and find cause for additional fines and penalties. These fines can hit your financials hard, so make sure your business is in the clear on all fronts.

c) Conduct employee screenings. It's clear that the vaccination mandates have proved to be a divisive topic. Ensure that the people you hire are on the same page regarding the issue to avoid future confrontations and forced layoffs. Look at their past workers' compensation claims and do thorough reference checks.

For more information on commercial health benefits, visit NY Small Health.

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