Governor Hochul Requires Employers to Activate HERO Act Safety Plans
On September 6, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that she would begin enforcing the NY HERO Act, which mandates extensive health and safety protections for workers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The HERO Act was previously signed into law by former Governor Cuomo in May to prevent workplace infections but was not activated at that time. Now, Governor Hochul designated COVID-19 a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to public health under the HERO Act.
Originally, employers were required to adopt a plan with standards, which was to lie dormant until activated by the Governor. The announcement on Monday, September 6, now requires employers to activate those safety plans that were previously adopted. The aim is to ensure that workplace protections are in place and to help employers prepare as COVID-19 rates rise throughout the State.
The HERO Act requires employers to create an airborne infectious disease standard and safety plan. The safety plan must implement various safety measures, including, but not limited to, daily health screenings, masking and social distancing requirements, hygiene stations, cleaning and sanitation procedures, quarantine protocol, and building airflow technology. Model safety plans were previously released by the State. Employers must distribute the safety plan to all employees and post it in a visible location at each worksite. For employers with an employee handbook, the safety plan must also be appended to the handbook. The HERO Act further requires employers with more than 10 employees to allow employees to form joint labor-management health and safety committees. It also includes anti-retaliation provisions for any employees who express concerns about the plans or safety related to the plans and imposes various penalties for noncompliance.
Employers were required to adopt a safety plan by August 5, 2021, and to communicate the plan verbally to employees by September 4, 2021. Finally, by November 1, 2021, employers with more than 10 employees must allow employees to begin forming workplace safety committees.
Additional information about the HERO Act can be found here: HERO Act Airborne Infectious Disease Prevention Plan Materials Released. If you have any questions regarding the NY HERO Act, or if you have any other Labor & Employment Law concerns, please contact the Underberg & Kessler attorney who regularly handles your legal matters or Ericka Elliott, the author of this piece, here or at (585) 258-2830.