Effective September 7, 2021, staff in New Jersey’s public and private health care facilities and congregate settings deemed “high risk” must receive the COVID-19 vaccine or, alternatively, be subject to COVID-19 testing one to two times per week. A list of the type of impacted facilities is available here.
By September 7, health care facilities with unvaccinated employees must have a plan for regular testing. For employers not currently using a test-based strategy, this provides barely a month to ascertain the vaccination status of all employees and roll out a plan for regular COVID-19 testing, as required by the state. In accordance with EEOC guidance, employers may require employees to show proof of vaccination (read our prior coverage about employment issues related to the COVID-19 vaccine).
Although regular COVID-19 testing is an option under New Jersey’s new directive, the state is clearly pushing health care employers to mandate vaccination for their employees, stating “Private facilities are strongly encouraged to consider instituting requirements above and beyond the baseline that will be required by the State.” In its announcement, the state also made clear that the testing option provided under the new rule does not alter any employer’s existing policy requiring vaccination as a condition of employment.
According to media reports, Governor Murphy has suggested that the state may move to require all staff at these facilities to be vaccinated if vaccination rates do not increase.
Ballard Spahr’s labor and employment team is ready to assist any employers seeking to roll out a mandatory vaccination program or a COVID-19 testing program.