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COVID-19 Information

Legal Alert: Certain New York City Businesses Must Require Staff and Customers to be Vaccinated to Enter

On August 3, 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that beginning on August 16, restaurants, bars, gyms, and theaters will be required to mandate at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 for both their staff and anyone wishing to enter the business. Customers will be required to show either their paper vaccination card, or the City’s or State’s app to enter indoor venues. The rule does not apply to children under 12, who cannot yet be vaccinated. Adults who are unvaccinated will only be allowed to eat outside at a restaurant. Details have yet to be finalized, but it is anticipated that museums will be added to the list.

In order to provide a transition period and give people time to get vaccinated, enforcement will begin on Sept. 13, when schools are expected to re-open and many businesses are planning to resume in-person operations. Inspectors from the City health department and other agencies enforcing the new rule could assess as-yet unspecified fines for non-compliance.

Some businesses will no doubt welcome the announcement, as it gives them more backing to require vaccines for their workers and patrons. Many companies have struggled to navigate their concern for public health, the tight labor market, and their legal obligations regarding vaccines that are currently approved only for emergency use. However, the Federal Food and Drug Administration announced on August 4 that it aims to grant final approval to the Pfizer vaccine by early September. In addition, as the Delta variant has created a surge in new COVID-19 cases, businesses large and small have begun insisting on vaccination as a condition of employment.

Still, even with the force of a City-backed mandate, some companies will have difficulty with the new rule, including those that rely on tourists, who may not be vaccinated. In addition, employers will need to prepare how to respond to employees who may refuse to be vaccinated based on religious or medical reasons, or who simply quit when told they must get the shot. Moreover, some businesses may not be physically set up to have a person checking vaccines at the door. Asking staff to confront customers who may refuse, or who try to flout the rule, may lead to conflict.

Much remains to be determined about the impact the new rule will have on businesses. If you have questions about the information in this Legal Alert, please contact Valerie K. Ferrier, Co-Chair of Kane Kessler’s Labor & Employment Law Department, at vferrier@kanekessler.com or 212-519-5107.

This memo is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice and readers should consult counsel to discuss how these matters relate to their individual circumstances.