On December 20, 2021, the City of Boston announced a new vaccination mandate, the “Temporary Order Requiring COVID-19 Vaccination for Indoor Entertainment, Recreation, Dining, and Fitness Settings in the City of Boston” (the “Order”), or, as City Hall calls it, “B Together.” Unlike the recent New York City mandate, Boston’s mandate does not apply to all employers. Instead, the Order applies to any entity that operates a “covered premises,” which means:
- Indoor portions of food service establishments offering food and drink, such as restaurants and bars, though not including establishments offering food or drink for off-premises or outdoor consumption.
- Indoor entertainment, recreational, and event venues, such as movie theaters, music or concert venues, commercial event venues, party venues, museums and galleries, sports arenas and indoor stadiums, convention centers, exhibition halls, theaters, bowling alleys, and “other recreational centers.”
- Indoor gyms and fitness settings, such as commercial gyms, fitness studios, yoga/pilates/barre/dance studios, boxing gyms, boot camps, indoor pools, and other facilities use for conducting group fitness classes.
The Order covers not only patrons, but also full- or part-time employees, interns, volunteers, and on-site contractors. That is, for employees to work on-site, they must be vaccinated in line with this schedule:
- January 15, 2022: Must present proof of at least one dose of vaccination.
- February 15, 2022: Must present proof of either one dose of a one-dose series, or two doses in a two-dose series.
Proof of vaccination means (1) a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card; (2) a digital image of a CDC card; (3) any other official immunization record from the place where the vaccine was administered; (4) a digital image of the official immunization record; (5) a letter, digital image, or report from a health care provider, pharmacy, or vaccination site establishing proof of COVID-19 vaccination; or (6) a smartphone app approved by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or the City of Boston (such as Clear Health Pass, Common Pass, Key to NYC, VaxYes, IATA Travel Pass, and the Excelsior Pass). The vaccine mandate does not currently require boosters.
Covered entities also must post a sign at the entrance. It is available here for download in numerous languages.
There are a number of issues that are not addressed in the Order. In particular, it does not address religious or medical accommodations for employees. In FAQs posted on the City’s website, however, businesses are encouraged to consider reasonable accommodations for “customers” who state they cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons, unless it would pose a direct threat to the safety of other customers and employees or impose an undue hardship. Also, the requirement to confirm the vaccination status of “on-site contractors” excludes “individuals entering for a quick and limited purpose,” but it is unclear what that exclusion means.
Once the Order takes effect in January, City inspectors will check for compliance. First offenders will receive a warning. For a second offense, the Boston Public Health Commission can impose fines of up to $300 per violation, or the employer may face “other enforcement action.” While called a “Temporary Order,” it remains in effect until rescinded.
Employers are also reminded that Boston’s mask mandate remains in effect.
Employers operating covered entities in Boston should take steps to ensure that they are complying with this Order and consult with legal counsel if necessary. Compliance with the Boston Order does not alleviate an employer of their obligation to comply with any more stringent legal standards that may apply, such as portions of the federal OSHA ETS.