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New York HERO Act Imposes Workplace Health and Safety Requirements on Employers

July 20, 2021

On May 5, 2021, New York enacted the Health and Essential Rights Act (HERO Act), which generally required employers in New York to have a certain groundwork in place to deal with future airborne infectious diseases and to permit the establishment of safety committees. The HERO Act requires employers to take an initial step by August 5, 2021. More specifically:

First, by August 5, 2021, employers with worksites located in New York must adopt an airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan. While the law requires such a plan adoption, the plan need not go into effect until the New York State Commissioner of Health designates the airborne infectious disease as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health, which is not the present case. Employers can adopt the model plan applicable to their industry (available here) or develop an alternate plan that equals or exceeds the standards set forth under the applicable industry-specific plan. An employer choosing to develop an alternate plan must do so with the meaningful participation of employees (and through collective bargaining, if unionized).

Second, once the employer adopts a prevention plan, it must provide notice to its employees by September 4, 2021. Thereafter, it must provide notice to new employees upon hire and, if there is a period of closure due to an airborne infection disease, it must provide the plan to employees again within 15 days of reopening. Employers should also append the plan to their handbook and post the plan in a visible and prominent location at each worksite.

Third, effective November 1, 2021, the HERO Act requires employers with ten or more employees to allow employees the opportunity to establish joint labor-management workplace safety committees, but not more than one committee per worksite. An employer need not create an additional safety committee if it already has a workplace safety committee that is consistent with this Act. 

If you have questions about this or any other workforce issue, please contact your relationship attorney or one of Honigman’s Labor and Employment attorneys.  

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