Bill Morris in COVID-19 on December 23, 2021
Ira Meister’s phone has been ringing nonstop. “Everyone’s in a panic about the vaccine mandate,” says Meister, the president of Matthew Adam Properties. “The confusion has arisen because people on co-op and condo boards haven’t read the whole story. Some people think that everyone coming into a building, including residents, must show a vaccination card. I’m trying to explain to people that only employees need to be vaccinated.”
That rule goes into effect on Monday, Dec. 27. Beginning on that date, all employees who perform in-person work or interact with the public must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before entering the workplace. Employers, including co-op and condo boards, must deny access to any unvaccinated employees — unless the employee can prove that he or she has filled out the Application Form for a medical or religious exemption, or has already been granted such an exemption.
Boards must keep a record of all employees’ vaccination status as well as any exemptions. Those confidential records are to be kept onsite, separate from regular personnel files. “We’ve prepared books for every resident manager to keep track of employees’ vaccination cards,” Meister says. “When the employee gets a booster shot, the manager puts that on the card.”
The new mandate does not supersede the existing state mandate that requires all persons entering a building’s common areas, including the vaccinated, to wear a mask.
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There are wrinkles involving contractors. Employees of contractors — whether hired by the board to do work on common areas or by an individual to do work inside an apartment — must provide vaccination proof to their employers. “For a building contractor, a board can either check workers as they enter the building, or get vaccination confirmation from the contractor,” says Peter Massa, a partner at the law firm Armstrong Teasdale. “For work inside an apartment, it’s on the shareholder or unit-owner to do the same. We are recommending to our board clients that they send a letter to shareholders or unit-owners to let them know it’s their responsibility to vet their employees.”
Massa adds that there’s a wrinkle to this wrinkle: “Delivery people or dog walkers, people who enter the building for what’s called ‘a quick and limited purpose,’ do not need to be checked.” Nannies and maids and other service personnel, like contractors working inside an apartment, must have their vaccination status confirmed by the person employing them.
By Dec. 27 boards must also post in a public place an Affirmation of Compliance with the new vaccine mandate, which is available on the city’s Department of Health website.
Noncompliance can result in fines up to $1,000 per violation, with escalating penalties if violations persist. For a violation resulting from work inside an apartment, who pays the fine? “It’s not clear yet,” Massa says. “But generally violations are assessed against the building, and then the board can try to recover the cost.”
One thing is clear. “This,” Meister predicts, “is going to be a hard holiday season.”
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