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New Workplace Law to Protect from Infectious Disease Spread

On Behalf of | May 11, 2021 | Articles, Blog, Business Law, Employment Law, Healthcare Law, Healthcare Litigation, New York StatLaw, Publications

As many return back to the workplace upon getting vaccinated, efforts are required to ensure we continue to guard against the infectious diseases spreading in the workplace. The recently enacted NY HERO Act guides workplaces on how to best protect their employees.

The HERO Act has two parts: (1) the Safety Plan and (2) the Safety Committee.

Part 1:

The Safety Plan applies to all private employers regardless of size. While employers can establish their own plans, these safety plans will be developed by the NYS Department of Labor (NYSDOL) and Department of Health to include:

(1) employee health screenings;

(2) face coverings and personal protective equipment;

(3) hand washing signage;

(4) cleaning/disinfecting shared equipment and other surfaces;

(5) social distancing and quarantine orders;

(6) engineering controls such as air flow and ventilation;

(7) designated supervisor(s) to enforce safety standards;

(8) review of safety standards, employer policies, and employee rights;

(9) compliance with notice requirements to employees and government officials

Importantly, noncompliance with the Safety Plan can result in NYSDOL imposed penalties ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

Part 2:

The Safety Committee applies to all NYS private employers 10 or more employees. Members of the Safety Committee are selected by non- supervisory level employees (not the employer).

These selected members will be provided training and responsible for:

(1) bringing safety concerns to the attention of the employer (who must respond);

(2) reviewing the employer’s health and safety policy;

(3) reviewing any new health and safety policies;

(4) participating in site visits by health and safety officials;

(5) reviewing health and safety reports filed by the employer;

(6) attending quarterly meetings.

Due to the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pronouncement, that fully vaccinated individuals can be doors and outdoors without wearing masks except when in health settings on public transportation or in specified areas where masks are required, there is tremendous confusion regarding which requirements apply.

Simultaneously, states and municipalities are free to impose more stringent requirements.  Considering the CDC guidance, New York is relaxing its onerous requirements starting May 19, 2021.

It remains to be seen whether the CDC will pull back its new guidance. For now, employers should follow the newly announced NYS guidelines available here.

Employers can take steps now to ensure they are positioned to best prepare, for example, by familiarizing themselves with the requirements of the two-part law, and begin strategizing where to post signage, and review and modify their employee handbook and other policies and procedures.

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