By now, most New Yorkers are aware of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s employer vaccine mandate, which required that by December 27 all private-sector employees have at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. The policy, announced at the beginning of December, constitutes the strongest private-sector vaccine mandate in the United States.
However, some are unaware that the mandate also applies to private citizens who employ others for jobs in the home — such as babysitters, home health aides and housekeepers.
According to the city’s recent executive order, written by Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, all “covered entities” must verify workers’ proof of vaccination before they enter the workplace, eﬀective December 27, 2021. The executive order goes on to define “covered entities” as any “non-governmental entity that employs more than one worker in New York City,” or “a self-employed individual or a sole practitioner who works at a workplace or interacts with workers or the public in the course of their business.”
The mandate therefore extends to many New Yorkers who may not consider themselves “employers” in the traditional sense. This includes people who hire individuals to work as nannies and tutors.
According to nyc.gov, 18.7% of New York City residents remain unvaccinated. However, many in that remaining 18.7% may erroneously believe themselves exempt from the mandate because they work an “informal” job for an individual employer, or even a small retail business.
“Unlike other immunizations, it’s brand new and understudied. I find it unfair to mandate such vaccines. We have the right to decide for ourselves to take the vaccine or not,” says Mahmuda Uddin, a former early childhood educator who now works as a babysitter and private tutor. “Private home workers have the right to decide who they hire for the work, vaccinated or the non-vaccinated.”
“More than half my staﬀ is not vaccinated,” says the manager of a Soho retailer. When asked if she thought all of her unvaccinated staﬀ would comply, she responded “No, I don’t. A lot of people that have hesitated for the past eleven months are not going to get it now because the government tells them to.”
Some also express that messaging about de Blasio’s mandate was unclear, with employees having little lead-time between learning of the mandate and the deadline.
The retail manager said she was unaware of the new rules until less than a week before the deadline to have all her staﬀ vaccinated, having previously believed that employees had the choice of being vaccinated or being masked at work.
“I heard about it for the first time December 23. When [an employee] first said it, I was confused and I said no, Governor Hochul’s thing is that you can choose vaccination or masks. And she said no, de Blasio has his own thing. So then of course I get on the phone with my people. Everyone was surprised, no one had heard of it,” she states.
The lack of clarity has sent some rushing to figure out what is required of them in order to comply. As reported by Gothamist, city property manager AKAM sent out a bulletin to its residents stating that they must now require proof of vaccination for anyone entering their home to work. AKAM instructed its residents that this would include contractors such as movers or plumbers who perform brief, individual tasks.
“Quick and Limited” Tasks
However, the city’s executive order includes an exemption for “quick and limited” tasks, such as delivery drivers who enter to drop oﬀ food. This leads to the natural question of how long a task must take before an employer must require proof of vaccination, something the city has not clarified.
An additional wrinkle lies in the case of gig-economy platforms such as TaskRabbit, which may not require their employees to be vaccinated; if someone is hired through TaskRabbit to move furniture or fix a leaky sink, and if such tasks are deemed not to fall under the “quick and limited” category, it would then fall on the person hiring them to check their vaccination status.
Some unvaccinated workers may simply be skeptical the mandate will be enforced.
“I don’t think it’s enforceable with private home workers ... it will solely depend on the employers,” says Uddin, the tutor and babysitter.
“I think a lot of people wanted to wait to see what Eric Adams would do, or if the courts would stop [the mandate] like they stopped Biden’s,” says the Soho store manager. “So we thought, for all we knew, it would get stopped in a day or a week.”
However, a spokesperson for the NYC Health Department states that at the time of writing, “the private sector mandate is still in eﬀect,” referring to the original executive order, which presumably includes its applications to part-time and domestic workers.
Some private and part-time employees, on the other hand, are all for being included in the mandate.
“I have been vaccinated since April of this year, I work with children and was included in the first round of early vaccinations,” says Leslie C., 28, a Brooklyn resident who works as both a part-time tutor and a full-time administrator for a children’s program. “I think every employer should mandate their employees to get vaccinated.”