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Workers’ Vaccination Rights: Here’s What You Need to Know

Can you use sick leave to get your shots? Do you have to pay to get vaccinated? Do non-citizens need to show proof of immigration status? Good questions. We’ve got some answers.

Wien House residents and workers received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, March 3, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

More New Yorkers are getting vaccinated — in fact, about one in three city residents has received at least one dose.

Until recently, however, a lot of people doing essential work (and thus at higher risk of being exposed to the coronavirus) didn’t qualify for the vaccine. Some, like nail salon workers, were pushing state and city leaders to grant eligibility based on work that requires close contact with other people.

But now everyone 16 and older in New York can get the shots.

If you’re a worker and haven’t been vaccinated yet, here’s what you need to know:

You are entitled to extra sick leave to get your vaccine

You have a right to four additional hours of paid sick leave for each vaccine dose, in addition to other paid sick leave rights you have at work. Your employer can’t retaliate against you for using this sick leave to get vaccinated.

Farrell Brody, a workers’ rights attorney for TakeRoot Justice, said: “You don’t have to lose a day of paid work to get the vaccine. It’s totally mandatory. Workers can’t be punished or fired for using that sick leave.”

The vaccine is free

When making an appointment, the form may ask about insurance. If you have it, the state, city or pharmacy will bill your insurance. If you don’t have insurance, you can still get vaccinated at no cost to you. If a prompt asks if you have insurance when signing up for a vaccine, you can select no and still get an appointment.

Non-citizen New Yorkers can get the vaccine, and you don’t need to show any proof of immigration status

You do need to show that you live or work in New York and that you are at least 16 years old. Here is the list of acceptable documents to prove this. And EpicenterNYC made a folder of templates for some of these forms in case you need to write a letter to show your employment or residency.

Need help getting an appointment? Here are some websites and volunteer groups that can assist

  • You can book a vaccine over the phone. New York State’s hotline is 1-833-NYS-4VAX, and it’s available in six languages. New York City’s hotline is 1-877-VAX-4NYC, and it’s available in seven languages.
  • Turbovax combines the appointments available from multiple sign-up sites.
  • EpicenterNYC is helping New Yorkers secure vaccine appointments. You can sign up to get help here.
  • EpicenterNYC also made this helpful video about how to get an appointment, and has fliers in a bunch of languages about how to get an appointment.
  • Lots of local mutual aid groups are helping neighbors get appointments.

Worth noting: Johnson & Johnson

The state has paused its distribution of Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine shots, per suggestion of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration as researchers study some potential side effects.

An important note: If you already have a vaccine appointment scheduled, state-run sites are switching all J&J doses to Pfizer, and city-run sites rescheduled some J&J appointments and are replacing others with Pfizer or Moderna. The city would have notified you if your appointment needed to be rescheduled.

Shifting gears a bit: Are you getting your unemployment payments?

We’ve been hearing from many of you who say you’ve reached a year on your unemployment benefits and have stopped receiving your payments even as you keep certifying.

This is called the “Benefit Year Ending” and we wrote about it last month. We told you that some workers would need to file a new claim to keep receiving benefits until Sept. 6, the new extended date. It’s sort of complicated, but we break it all down here.

If you did have to file a new claim, state Department of Labor officials say it can take up to three weeks for your payments to kick in. So if your payments seem delayed, this might be the case.

If that’s not the situation and you think something is wrong, or if you have more questions, email us at opennewsroom@thecity.nyc. Our team is looking into this and will come back with more information soon.

What else we’re reading (and listening to)

Questions?

If you have specific questions about working or unemployment in NYC during the pandemic or something else you think we should cover, send a note to opennewsroom@thecity.nyc.

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