BPHR’s Director Lisa Salcido, SPHR, SHRM-SCP provides answers to your pressing HR questions.
Question: What do New York employers need to know about the HERO Act?
Answer: On May 5, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (HERO Act) into law. The law mandates extensive workplace health and safety requirements to protect employees against exposure and disease during a future airborne infectious disease outbreak. The law also prohibits retaliation against employees who raise concerns about employers’ workplace health measures.
Establish a Prevention Plan
The HERO Act requires all private employers with worksites in New York to establish a written airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan by August 5, 2021. The plan must include exposure controls such as health screenings, face coverings, hand hygiene, physical distancing, cleaning and disinfection, and personal protective equipment.
The New York State Department of Labor published an Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard, a Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan, and various industry-specific model plans. Employers can choose to adopt a model provided by NYS DOL or establish an alternative plan that meets or exceeds the Standard’s minimum requirements.
The Act requires New York employers to:
- distribute the plan to employees by September 4, 2021;
- post the plan in a prominent location at each New York worksite;
- provide the plan to all newly hired employees; and
- a copy of the plan must be added to employee handbooks.
Implement a Prevention Plan
On September 6, 2021, New York’s Commissioner of Health designated COVID-19 as an airborne infectious disease. Employers are now required to implement their HERO Act safety plan.
The Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard lists these implementation steps.
When a highly contagious communicable disease is designated by the Commissioner of Health as presenting a serious risk of harm to the public health, each employer shall:
- Immediately review the worksite’s exposure prevention plan and update the plan, if necessary, to ensure that it incorporates current information, guidance, and mandatory requirements issued by federal, state, or local governments related to the infectious agent of concern;
- Finalize and promptly activate the worksite exposure prevention plan;
- Provide the verbal review:
- The employer shall conduct a verbal review of employer policies, employee rights under this section and section 218-b of the labor law, and the employer’s exposure prevention plan set forth herein.
- Such verbal review shall be provided in a manner most suitable for the prevention of an airborne infectious disease, whether in person in a well-ventilated environment with appropriate face masks or personal protective equipment, or via audio or video conference technology; and
- Provide each employee with a copy of the exposure prevention plan in English or in the language identified as the primary language of such employees, if available, and
- Post a copy of the exposure prevention plan in a visible and prominent location at the worksite (except when the worksite is a vehicle); and
- Ensure that a copy of the exposure prevention plan is accessible to employees during all work shifts.
Allow for Safety Committees
Effective November 1, 2021, the HERO Act also requires employers with at least 10 employees to allow employees to form safety committees. Employee safety committees would be permitted to meet regularly during work hours to review policies, participate in site visits, and raise workplace health and safety concerns. NYS DOL is expected to publish additional guidance for employee safety committees.
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DISCLAIMER: The material presented on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.