Starting Sept. 13, NYPD officers will have to provide proof that they either are vaccinated against the coronavirus or have received a negative PCR test within seven days. Officers who don’t comply will not be able to work and will be docked pay.
The Sept. 8 directive mirrors the one issued by Mayor de Blasio late last month for all city employees. That general order, however, said that those employees who did not comply could face "disciplinary action" and did not mention pay.
U.S. Rule Protects Pay?
The NYPD’s order says that testing “must take place outside of scheduled working hours,” a provision roundly criticized by the Police Benevolent Association.
“Contrary to our previous conversations with the Department, the order indicates that unvaccinated MOS must obtain a COVID-19 test on their own time,” the union’s president, Patrick J. Lynch, said in a note to members shortly after the directive was sent out. “In the PBA's view, any testing mandated by the Department must be conducted on job time and at the city's expense, and any test received outside of the MOS's regular working hours should be subject to overtime compensation.”
He said the union would file either an improper-practice petition or a grievance with the city’s Board of Collective Bargaining. He counseled Officers who receive a department-mandated test to hold on to receipts and records.
A day after the department directive was sent out, President Biden announced that part of his COVID-19 “Action Plan” entailed asking the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop a rule requiring employers with more than 100 workers to provide for paid time-off “for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination.”
It was unclear whether that rule could have a bearing on the department’s directive.
Vaccination Rate Lags
Although the virus for a time decimated the department—by April last year, nearly one in five officers was out sick—the agency's vaccination rate, including for civilian employees, is only about 48 percent, a department spokesman said. (The NYPD does not provide statistics for only uniformed officers.) That is just 1 percent more than were vaccinated three weeks ago.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 72.7 percent of New Yorkers 18 and over are fully inoculated.
Mayor de Blasio, who has had a bruising relationship with the department’s rank and file for most of his nearly eight-year tenure, brushed aside concerns that some officers would not comply with the directive and therefore not come to work.
“We feel confident that we’re going to have adherence and that we can make adjustments if there are any issues,” he said during his Sept. 9 briefing. Although he did not elaborate on what those adjustments might be, the Mayor expressed confidence that mandates and “incentives,” as he called them, would convince more people, including city employees, to seek the vaccine.
Asked why the vaccination rate of employees in some city departments remained far below that of residents generally, the Mayor blamed “misinformation.”
“Unfortunately, in a crisis, in an era where we should all be pulling together, a lot of our employees are being treated to a lot of misinformation," Mr. de Blasio said. "That’s a big part of the problem."
He noted that increased vaccination rates were “making a big impact” and pushing back on the Delta variant. But, he added, “We’ve got to finish the mission.
“We know there’s a lot more people who are ready, willing and able to be vaccinated,” he said. “Some will be moved by mandates, some by incentives, but we can reach many hundreds of thousands of people.”
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