As covered in our previous blog post, in January 2023, Onondaga County Supreme Court Justice, Hon. Gerard J. Neri, struck down a regulation adopted by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) – 10 N.Y.C.R.R. § 2.61 (the Regulation) – requiring covered healthcare entities to ensure that their “personnel” are “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19. The NYSDOH, the Commissioner of Health, Governor Hochul (collectively, Respondents) filed a Notice of Appeal, indicating their intention to appeal Judge Neri’s decision in its entirety. Shortly thereafter, on Jan. 27, 2023, Respondents moved for a stay of enforcement of Judge Neri’s Order during the pendency of their appeal.
On Jan. 13, 2023, Onondaga County Supreme Court Justice, Hon. Gerard J. Neri, struck down a regulation adopted by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) – 10 N.Y.C.R.R. § 2.61 (the Regulation) – requiring covered healthcare entities to ensure that their “personnel” are “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19. Judge Neri invalidated the Regulation on several grounds, holding that the NYSDOH exceeded its authority in implementing the Regulation and that the Regulation lacked a rational basis given the NYSDOH’s acknowledgement that the mandate does not prevent transmission.
With the onset of the COVID-19 XBB.1.5 variant, more employees are in need of time off from work this winter to recover from unfortunate illness. Below is a quick update for employers on the current state of COVID-19 paid leave laws available to employees:
In August 2021, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) implemented an emergency regulation – 10 N.Y.C.R.R. § 2.61 (the Regulation) – requiring covered healthcare entities to ensure that their “personnel” are “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19. The NYSDOH Commissioner permanently adopted the regulation in June 2022. Commonly referred to as a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, the Regulation has been the subject of several legal challenges in both state and federal courts.
On Sept. 14, 2022, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) issued updated COVID-19 quarantine and isolation guidance, which effectively replaces the guidance from May 31, 2022. According to the September 14 guidance, the NYSDOH will now follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines on quarantine and isolation.
Last week, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that New York’s regulation establishing isolation and quarantine procedures related to COVID-19 and other highly communicable diseases is void and unenforceable.
In February 2021, New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, filed a lawsuit against Amazon alleging that the retailer failed to sufficiently prioritize hygiene, sanitation and social distancing at its fulfillment center and delivery station in New York City.1 The Complaint also alleged that Amazon unlawfully terminated employees at those locations who complained about conditions they perceived to be unsafe.2 The Complaint asserted causes of action under various sections of the New York Labor Law (NYLL), including Sections 200, 215 and 740, all of which “relate to the obligations of New York businesses to adequately protect the health and safety of employees and to refrain from discrimination or retaliation against employees who complain about potential NYLL violations.”3
On April 1, 2022, New York’s Public Health Law § 2895-b regarding nursing home staffing levels went into effect. The law, initially meant to take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, was suspended by executive order in light of ongoing staffing shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 31, 2022, Gov. Hochul declined to extend the suspension. Nursing homes across New York must now comply with this law.
On March 14, 2022 the EEOC issued new guidance regarding Caregiver Discrimination against employees or applicants who are caregivers, as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.1 Note that this guidance supplements, but does not appear to supplant, earlier Caregiver Discrimination Guidance from the EEOC.2 Although these documents are crafted with the pandemic in mind, employers should be mindful of these issues within the broader professional context, as well.
On March 18, 2022, the NYS Department of Labor updated its NY HERO Act website to confirm that the NYS Commissioner of Health’s designation of COVID-19 as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health” ended on March 17, 2022.
On March 1, 2022, the EEOC updated its guidance on religious accommodations to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. While the guidance states that job applicants and employees have a right to request a religious accommodation from an employer’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement under Title VII, the new guidance answers many questions specific to COVID-19 vaccination requirements and specifically addresses how employers should evaluate an employee’s religious objection to the vaccine.
On Feb. 15, 2022, the NYS Commissioner of Health extended the NY HERO Act designation for a fifth time through March 17, 2022. The Commissioner will review the CDC’s level of transmission of COVID-19 at that time and determine whether to continue the designation (extend further) or not. Based on the Commissioner’s designations, if the CDC’s level of transmission in New York continues to be “high” or “substantial,” it seems highly likely that the Commissioner will continue the designation.