JPMorgan announced Tuesday that it is banning all unvaccinated workers and guests from its Manhattan offices to try to keep masking rules relaxed while complying with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s controversial mask-or-vaccine mandate for businesses.
The bank said its nine Manhattan offices, including its headquarters at 383 Madison Ave., will now be “vaccinated only” workplaces, according to a memo to staff that was viewed by The Post.
The company’s other affected offices are at 237 Park Ave., 245 Park Ave., 277 Park Ave., 28 Liberty St., 390 Madison Ave., 410 Madison Ave., 4 New York Plaza and 5 Manhattan West, said the memo, which was from the bank’s “Return to the Office Task Force.”
“All of the above locations will now follow relaxed mask guidelines, which only require masks be worn when walking through lobbies, riding in elevators and in cafés when not eating,” the memo said. “Of course, you may continue to wear a mask when not in these areas if you’re more comfortable doing so.”
Hochul’s new statewide mask mandate went into effect Monday and applies to any business that doesn’t require its workers, customers and visitors to present proof of vaccination against COVID-19. The order requires that workers keep a mask on at all times in such instances unless the person is alone in a room or eating.
Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a controversial order that requires all private-sector workers in the Big Apple to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 27 and many indoor businesses to ban anyone who has not had two shots. The mandate is expected to be challenged in the courts.
JPMorgan’s new “vaccinated only” office policy is an effort to comply with the immediate state mandate while appeasing employees who don’t want to wear a mask while seated at their desk. The state mandate is currently set to expire Jan. 15.
“We are taking this step because we have very high rates of vaccination amongst our employees. With rates well above 90%, it seems unfair to require our vaccinated employees to wear masks all day at their desks, and would be a step that would slow the progress we’ve already made towards business normalcy,” JPMorgan said in the memo to staff.
The bank urged any unvaccinated staff to get the shots as soon as they can and asked unvaccinated employees “to work from home temporarily until alternative solutions are considered.”
“As the pandemic continues to evolve, we can anticipate additional government restrictions and requirements,” the bank said. “For now, we believe that vaccinated-only offices are the right way forward.”
Hochul’s statewide mask mandate is the latest obstacle for Empire State companies trying to navigate a return to the office during the pandemic.
Kathy Wylde, executive director of the pro-business Partnership for New York City, said the mandate has confused business leaders at the worst time — in the middle of the busy holiday period and as executives try to usher employees back to offices throughout crippled Downtown and Midtown Manhattan.
Hochul’s order goes further than any of the statewide mask mandates handed down by predecessor Andrew Cuomo, even during the height of New York’s first wave of COVID-19, when New York City was the deadliest coronavirus city in the nation.
Her order applies equally all throughout the state — even though New York City has some of the lowest rates of COVID-19 and highest rates of vaccination in the nation.