Dear Valued Clients, Colleagues and Supporters: This newsletter will focus on a new law set to go into effect on August 5, 2021 that impacts virtually all New York state employers and employees.
On May 5, 2021 Governor Cuomo signed into law the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act). The main purpose of the law is to require employers to implement extensive health and safety protocols and protections in the event of a future airborne infectious disease or viral outbreak. Specifically, employers will need to adopt and implement procedures and protocols designed to protect employees and have a plan of action in the event of such an outbreak.
The state has already published several “Model Airborne Infection Disease Exposure Prevention Plans”, which are available for download and immediate use at this link. The model plans are specific to certain industries, including construction, delivery services, domestic workers, manufacturing, retail, transportation, among other industries.
Employers now have until August 5, 2021, to adopt and implement one of the model plans, or to create a plan of their own that meets or exceeds the standards set forth by the state. Details of the safety plans include health screenings, face coverings and PPE, hygiene, social distancing, air flow, and other related requirements. If an employer wishes to implement its own plan it must do so either in coordination with a union, if their employees are unionized, or with input from employees if there is no applicable union.
In addition to having a safety plan and protocol in place, businesses with ten or more employees also must allow their workers to establish and run a “joint-labor-management workplace safety committee” for the purpose of reviewing safety concerns in the workplace and raising any related issues. This portion of the HERO Act goes into effect November 1, 2021, but if a workplace already has a committee that meets the requirements set forth by the new law, the employer does not need to create a new committee.
While employers must have their safety plans at the ready, they are only required to be put into effect if and when the New York State Commissioner of Health declares that there is an airborne infections disease that is a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public.” Presently, there is no such declaration in effect.
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