New York recently enacted the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (the “HERO Act”), which requires private employers in New York State to take certain measures to prevent occupational exposure to an airborne infectious disease. We summarize the two main employer obligations under the HERO Act, based upon the amendments that were recently enacted.
- Industry Specific Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan (“Prevention Plan”) must be distributed to all employees.
New York State will publish industry specific prevention standards which will set the minimum requirements that all workplaces must follow to limit the risk of infectious disease in the workplace. The deadline for the State to publish these standards will be July 5, 2021.
Employers must establish a Prevention Plan that either adopts the applicable model standards or meets or exceeds the applicable minimum prevention standards set by the State. Employers are required to distribute the Prevention Plan in English and in an employee’s primary language (provided that the model standards developed are available in that specific language) to all employees (within 30 days after adopting the plan or within 15 days after reopening of the business following a period of closure due to airborne infectious disease), and to new hires upon hiring.
If the employer has a handbook, the Prevention Plan must be incorporated into the handbook. In addition, employers are required to post the plan in a conspicuous location at the worksite.
- Workplace Safety Committee
Effective November 1, 2021, employers with at least 10 employees, shall permit their employees to establish and administer a joint labor-management workplace safety committee. The committee shall be composed of employee and employer designees, provided at least two-thirds are non-supervisory employees who are chosen by non-supervisory employees, unless a collective bargaining agreement is in place, in which case the collective bargaining representative will select.
Each safety committee shall be authorized to perform tasks, including:
- Raise health and safety concerns, hazards, complaints, and violations to the employer to which the employer must respond.
- Review any policy put in place in the workplace required by any provision of the Act relating to occupational safety and health and provide feedback to such policy in a manner consistent with any provision of law.
- Review the adoption of any policy in the workplace in response to any health or safety law, ordinance, rule, regulation, executive order, or other related directive.
- Regularly schedule a meeting during work hours at least once a quarter that shall last no longer than two hours.
There are also rules relating to the composition of the safety committee, training of the committee on safety issues, how often the committee needs to meet, and compensation to the committee members for their committee work.
Employers should start preparing to become compliant with relevant requirements under the two main components of law; this includes reviewing their existing COVID-19 related workplace guidelines to evaluate areas that may need to be reconfigured to comply with minimum safety standards and deciding how to comply with the specific rules for establishing safety committees.