By Katherine L. Wood, Esq.
In May, New York State passed the New York Health and Essential Rights (“HERO”) Act, which took effect on June 4, 2021. The HERO Act imposes many workplace safety requirements on employers with the aim of preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases. Among those requirements is the obligation to implement an industry-specific health and safety plan. Last week, the New York State Department of Labor (“NYS DOL”) released model prevention plans for employer use. Employers have 30 days from the release of the model prevention plans—until August 5, 2021—to adopt their own plan.
Currently, the NYS DOL website provides a general model prevention plan, along with model prevention plans for the following industries: agriculture, construction, delivery services, domestic workers, emergency response, food service, manufacturing and industry, personal services, private education, private transportation, and retail. Employers are free to adopt these model prevention plans as their own, or they may adopt a different plan so long as it meets or exceeds the required standards. The NYS DOL model policies can be found here: https://dol.ny.gov/ny-hero-act.
Once the employer adopts a prevention plan, the plan must be distributed to employees and placed in the employee handbook. Although employers must adopt a prevention plan by August 5, 2021, the plan does not need to become effective until the New York State Commissioner of Health designates an infectious disease as a “highly contagious communicable disease” presenting serious risk of harm to the public. Remember that employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the HERO Act or their workplace prevention plan.
Going into effect in the fall is the Joint Labor-Management Workplace Safety Committee provision of the HERO Act. Employers with more than ten employees must permit their employees to implement such a committee, with the purpose of addressing health and safety issues in the workplace. This provision takes effect on November 1, 2021. For more information on this, and the other requirements of the HERO Act, click here.
Join attorneys Joe Brown and Katherine Wood on Monday, July 26th at 12pm as they review the HERO Act as part of the Better Business Bureau Webinar Series.
Hurwitz & Fine continues to monitor and analyze state and federal updates to employment laws. Please contact any member of the firm’s Labor & Employment team for guidance on these evolving issues at 716-849-8900, by e-mail, or visiting our website at www.hurwitzfine.com.