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New York Passes HERO Act

On May 5, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed the HERO Act into law. A detailed analysis of the law and its requirements from LeadingAge NY counsel Hinman Straub is available here. To summarize, the first part of the HERO Act creates a new section of the Labor Law that requires private employers to adopt an airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan. This requirement will take effect on July 4, 2021. The second part of the HERO Act adds a new section to the Labor Law requiring private employers to allow employees to establish and administer a joint labor-management workplace safety committee at each worksite. This section will take effect on Nov. 1, 2021.

Employers will be permitted to adopt a model prevention plan published by the Commissioner of the Department of Labor (DOL) or adopt one that meets or exceeds the minimum model standards. The model standards will establish minimum requirements for the workplace to prevent airborne infectious disease exposure, taking into account the varying levels of exposure, whether a state of emergency has or has not been declared due to an airborne infectious disease, and all applicable federal guidelines in the event that a state of emergency has been declared. If an employer adopts an alternative plan, the employer must do so in agreement with any union, if present, or with the meaningful participation of employees where no union is present.

Within 30 days of the employer’s adoption of the prevention plan, the employer must provide employees with a written copy of the plan in English or the employee’s primary language, unless the Commissioner has not published a model plan in that particular language. Employers must also provide the plan within 15 days after reopening “after a period of closure due to airborne infectious disease” and to new employees upon hiring. The employer must also post the plan in a conspicuous place at the worksite, include the plan in a handbook, and make the plan available upon request.

The second part of the HERO Act creates a new section of the Labor Law that requires private employers to allow employees “to establish and administer a joint labor-management workplace safety committee” at each worksite. In the event that the employer already has a similar committee in place that operates consistent with this new law, the employer is exempt from creating an additional workplace safety committee.

The workplace safety committee is permitted to perform the following tasks:

  • 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 law and relating to occupational safety and health and provide feedback to such policy;
  • 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;
  • Participate in any site visit by any governmental entity responsible for enforcing health and safety standards, unless otherwise prohibited by law;
  • Review any report filed by the employer related to the health and safety of the workplace in a manner consistent with any provision of law;
  • Regularly schedule a meeting during work hours at least once a quarter that shall last no longer than two hours.

Contact: Sara Neitzel, sneitzel@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8835