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Potential legal impact of new vaccine rules for NYS workers

September 8, 2021

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ALBANY, NY (WRGB) — Before resigning from office, former Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees.

Those choosing not to get the shot would be subject to weekly testing, and that policy took effect on Labor Day.

There’s also a new law to protect workers at every business in the state.

The Hero Act, signed into law earlier this year, requires businesses in New York State to have enforceable safety standards and plans to prevent further spread of coronavirus and other airborne diseases. Monday, Governor Hochul designated COVID-19 as such a disease.

That move, coupled with that now in effect “vaccination or test” requirement for state workers is all part of a push to get more New Yorkers vaccinated. It impacts roughly 130,000 state employees.

It’s even more strict for state health care workers. Those who work at state-run hospitals must get the shot, so there’s no weekly testing option.

So what are workers rights here when it comes to not getting vaccinated, and could these new mandates cause a worker shortage, especially for state health care workers, who don’t have the option to get tested?

CBS 6 News got some legal perspective from Leslie Silva, a Partner at the Albany firm Tully Rinckey PLLC:

“Just based on the numbers that I’ve seen, it would seem that a majority of healthcare workers in New York State, especially in our area are vaccinated – it is very simple, there is very old case law that tells us that the state can mandate the vaccine,” said Silva.

It’s important to note for workers who may be nervous about speaking up, that the Hero Act also protects workers from retaliation if they make a complaint about their employer’s failure to follow that mandated safety plan.

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