The coronavirus vaccination mandate for New York City private employers, announced Monday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, has pushed the city’s workplace vaccination requirements far beyond those of most of the country, where local mandates are generally limited to the public sector and health care.
“It’s a much more radical policy than what we’ve seen in other cities put in place,” said Emily Gee, senior health policy researcher at the Center for American Progress.
At least twenty-two states now require vaccination against the coronavirus for certain categories of workers, such as those employed by the state or in healthcare facilities or schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Dozens of counties and cities, including New York, have also imposed compulsory vaccines for these types of workers. But these mandates have largely left private sector employers untouched.
Under New York City’s new mandate for private employers, employees who work in person at private companies must have a dose of the vaccine by December 27. Remote workers will not be required to be vaccinated. There is no testing option as an alternative.
At the federal level, the Biden administration’s mandates for government employees and the military are in effect, but those covering private employers are blocked in court.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an “emergency” rule in November requiring vaccination or weekly testing for most employees of companies with 100 or more workers, but the rule was suspended last month by a court federal, suspending the application. Likewise, a national mandate covering most healthcare workers was recently blocked when a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction.
In general, under federal law, private employers can act on their own to require their workers to be vaccinated, and some large companies have done so, with apparent success. United Airlines, which requires its 67,000 US employees to be vaccinated, said in September that more than 99% had complied. Tyson Foods said in October that more than 96 percent of its employees had been vaccinated, up from less than half before the company announced its tenure in August.
A investigation of employers last month found that more than half of respondents already required or plan to have employees vaccinated. The survey, conducted by Willis Towers Watson, a consulting firm, found that only three percent of those surveyed with vaccine mandates had seen a spike in staff resignations.
However, some state governments have passed laws or issued orders prohibiting employers from requiring workers to show proof of coronavirus vaccination.
Despite this, labor experts say workplace vaccination requirements are crucial, both to stop the spread of the virus and to encourage more people to return to the workforce.
“Employers are struggling to find workers because workers don’t want to put their safety and health at risk,” said Debbie Berkowitz, former OSHA chief of staff.
Yet many companies are reluctant to enforce their own vaccine requirements.
“Employers are reluctant to impose vaccines, especially in areas where there is a lot of reluctance and where vaccines have been politicized,” Ms. Gee said.
As employers fear alienating customers or workers and federal efforts are tied to litigation, she said, it is up to local governments to step in with workplace vaccination mandates. private.
“It is in the best interests of the cities to do this,” Ms. Gee said.