Situation Report | May 10, 2021
Governor Cuomo has signed into law a bill (S.1034-B/A.2681-B) establishing major new employer requirements for prevention of infectious disease in the workplace.
The bill, called the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act), requires the state Commissioner of Labor (DOL), in consultation with the state Department of Health (DOH), to create an airborne infectious disease exposure prevention standard for all work sites.
It also requires employers to establish and maintain a joint labor-management workplace safety committee with a range of duties and authorities. The committee will be required to meet at least once a quarter during work hours.
The Governor signed the bill last week on the condition that the Legislature make technical amendments, which it agreed to do. Those amendments call for more specific instructions on the workplace standards that would apply under the law as well as “a clear timeline” for implementation and “an immediate requirement for employers to cure violations.”
The original bill states that the act shall take effect 30 days after it becomes law, except for section 2. That section, requiring the joint labor-management workplace safety committee, shall take effect 180 days after it becomes law, according to the bill memo.
According to the original bill language, the new workplace standards would include: employee health screenings, face coverings, provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), hand-hygiene stations and break times to use them, regular cleaning and disinfecting of shared equipment, social distancing, verbal review of infectious disease standards, and a range of other compliance requirements. See last week’s Situation Report for a detailed article outlining these and other elements of the measure.
Employers would also be required to establish an airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan either by adopting the model standard or by implementing their own plan that equals or exceeds the model one. Employers would have to provide the plan to their employees on the act’s effective date and upon hiring. The plan would also need to be posted at the worksite.
In addition, the bill would require employers of 10 employees or more to allow employees to “establish and administer a joint labor-management workplace safety committee,” as noted earlier.
The law includes a range of penalties for non-compliance: a $50-per-day fine for failure to implement a compliant plan; or between $1,000 and $10,000 for failure to abide by an adopted plan. Penalties may also increase if it is determined that an employer violated the act within the previous six years.
HCA urges members to read the bill carefully and compare the new requirements with your current practices. Members can expect further information from DOH and/or DOL on implementation.
This law raises numerous challenges and impracticalities for home care employers. HCA will be addressing these issues with the Administration. We will also be planning education programs and further resources to assist providers in their implementation and compliance efforts.
Please be on the lookout for further information as we learn more.