By Lisa Calick, Director, HR Advisory
As mentioned in our earlier blog, What You Need to Know About the HERO Act, NY private employers were obligated to develop a safety plan should COVID-19 ever be designated an infectious disease.
New York’s Governor Hochul has now made this designation, thus triggering activation of the safety plans created by employers under the NY HERO Act.
As a result of this designation, NY employers must implement the plans they had adopted. Employers should now take the following action steps:
- Review the plan and make any updates that are needed in order to comply with federal, state and local requirements related to COVID-19 prevention
- Activate the plan and ensure that the required protocols and safety measures are being implemented and enforced
- Provide a verbal training and review to employees
- Distribute a copy of the plan to each employee and post a copy in a visible, conspicuous location at the worksite
Now that the plans need to be activated, many companies that had relaxed their COVID-19 safety protocols will need to re-implement them, according to the plan’s requirements. Examples might include daily health screenings, social distancing, face coverings, hand hygiene/sanitizing, cleaning, and disinfecting.
An important aspect of the Act is that employers may not retaliate against any employees for exercising their rights under the Act, reporting violations or concerns about exposure to an official. This protection also extends to employees unwilling to work if they believe in good faith that dangerous conditions exist which are not consistent with the Act’s requirements.
At this time, the Governor’s designation remains in effect until September 30, 2021, at which time it will be considered for continuance.
Employers who had not already developed their plan may wish to use one of the State’s developed model template plans.
The Department of Labor has also issued an important FAQ document that employers should review, including the timeline for different provisions of the Act. As noted in this document, employers who fail to abide by the requirements of the Act may be subject to daily penalties.