On June 8, 2021, New York State issued updated Interim Guidance for Office Based Work, which provides guidance to businesses regarding capacity limits, face coverings, screening requirements, and more. This latest update, in large measure, was intended to incorporate the CDC’s guidance exempting fully vaccinated individuals from face covering and social distancing requirements in most settings, which was adopted by New York State on May 19, 2021.

Before summarizing the new office guidance, it is important to note that on June 7 (the day before the revised office guidance was issued) Governor Cuomo announced that nearly all industry-specific state reopening guidelines would become optional once 70% of adults in New York State have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, except that individuals who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear face coverings and social distance while indoors.   According to the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, as of June 13, 2021, 67.3% of adult New Yorkers have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Thus, at least as of the date of publication, the below guidelines are mandatory until the state reaches the 70% threshold

Some of the more notable updates to the Office Guidance include the following:

  1. Proof of Vaccination: To ascertain vaccination status, businesses may request proof of vaccination, or may rely on self-reporting (i.e., the honor system).
  2. Face Coverings: In accordance with CDC guidance, fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks in office settings. According to the guidance, an individual is considered fully vaccinated 14 days after “having completed the COVID-19 vaccination series of an FDA or DOH authorized vaccine.” Non-fully vaccinated individuals must continue to wear face coverings – even after the 70% vaccination threshold is met.
  3. Social Distancing: Fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to maintain six feet of distance when interacting with other fully vaccinated individuals in the office. Non-fully vaccinated individuals are still required to practice social distancing, even after the 70% vaccination threshold is met.
  4. Fully Vaccinated Sections: The updated guidance permits businesses to maintain vaccinated and non-vaccinated sections in the office. If all individuals are vaccinated, businesses may allow for individuals to be spaced at full capacity without six feet of distancing. However, where individuals are not fully vaccinated or vaccination status is unknown, or where vaccinated and non-vaccinated employees are together, businesses must continue to require physical distancing.
  5. Daily Health Screenings: Daily health screenings are still required for all employees, regardless of vaccination status. Specifically, the guidance requires employers to implement daily health screenings, which should include questions about COVID-19 symptoms, close contacts, and positive tests. The health screening requirements also changed in two notable ways: (1) employees may answer “no” to the question about COVID-19 symptoms if their symptoms stem from a pre-existing medical condition, such as allergies or migraines, and the symptoms are not new or worsening; and (2) fully vaccinated employees, or employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past three months, may answer “no” to the question about contact with others who have tested positive COVID-19, because under CDC and NY guidance, such individuals need not quarantine after such exposure.

In other ways the interim guidance has had little impact upon previous guidance and requirements for businesses. For instance, businesses should continue to ensure meeting spaces are well-ventilated, and whenever possible, encourage video conferencing. Business should also continue to provide protective equipment for employees and continue to provide training on proper usage of protective equipment, as well as proper cleaning and sanitization procedures. Business must also continue to adhere to the hygiene and cleaning requirements set forth by the CDC and DOH. Finally, business remain responsible for cooperating with state and local health department contact tracing efforts and for reporting positive cases to the authorities in a prompt manner.

As New York residents continue to receive their vaccinations, businesses should closely monitor Governor Cuomo’s and the State’s announcements related to industry guidance for reopening and the rescission of COVID-19 restrictions.

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Proskauer’s cross-disciplinary, cross-jurisdictional Coronavirus Response Team is focused on supporting and addressing client concerns. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Center for guidance on risk management measures, practical steps businesses can take and resources to help manage ongoing operations.

 

Photo of Evandro Gigante Evandro Gigante

Evandro Gigante is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration group and the Hiring & Terminations group. He represents and counsels clients through a variety of labor and employment matters, including allegations of…

Evandro Gigante is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration group and the Hiring & Terminations group. He represents and counsels clients through a variety of labor and employment matters, including allegations of race, gender, national origin, disability and religious discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, defamation and breach of contract. Evandro also counsels employers through reductions-in-force and advises clients on restrictive covenant issues, such as confidentiality, non-compete and non-solicit agreements.

With a focus on discrimination and harassment matters, Evandro has extensive experience representing clients before federal and state courts. He has tried cases in court and before arbitrators and routinely represents clients before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as state and local human rights commissions.

Photo of Harris Mufson Harris Mufson

Harris M. Mufson is a partner in Proskauer’s Labor & Employment Law Department, where he serves as co-head of the Firm’s Whistleblowing & Retaliation Practice Group and the Disability, Accommodation & Leave Management Practice Group. He is highly regarded as a trusted advisor…

Harris M. Mufson is a partner in Proskauer’s Labor & Employment Law Department, where he serves as co-head of the Firm’s Whistleblowing & Retaliation Practice Group and the Disability, Accommodation & Leave Management Practice Group. He is highly regarded as a trusted advisor to clients in a wide range of industries regarding significant employment issues. Harris has vast expertise in employment matters, representing employers in disputes regarding discrimination and retaliation, whistleblowing, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, defamation, breach of contract, wage and hour, and restrictive covenants. In addition to litigating, Harris counsels clients on compliance with employment-related laws, as well as the development, implementation and enforcement of personnel policies and procedures. Additionally, he has conducted numerous internal investigations regarding sensitive employment matters.

Photo of Alex Downie Alex Downie

Alex Downie is a law clerk in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group. He previously worked as a summer associate at Proskauer and as an intern at the Department of Justice.

Alex earned…

Alex Downie is a law clerk in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group. He previously worked as a summer associate at Proskauer and as an intern at the Department of Justice.

Alex earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he served as the executive editor of the Virginia Law & Business Review. He also volunteered for the school’s employment law clinic, where he assisted with a variety of employment-related matters ranging from employment discrimination to wage and hour disputes.

Photo of Makenzie D. Way Makenzie D. Way

Makenzie Way is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group. Makenzie also has experience working as a mediator with the Penn Law Mediation Clinic.

Makenzie earned her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law…

Makenzie Way is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group. Makenzie also has experience working as a mediator with the Penn Law Mediation Clinic.

Makenzie earned her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was a deans scholar and editor of the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change (online). During law school, Makenzie earned a Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution after completing the Alternative Dispute Resolution Transnational Program at Waseda Law School in Tokyo, Japan. She was also a visiting scholar at the London School of Economics and Political Science in their Master of Laws (LLM) program, and founded Penn Law’s first Native American Law Student Association (NALSA).

In addition, Makenzie has a Master’s degree in Legal Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and sociology, and a Certificate of International Chinese Studies.