What You Need to Know About the HERO Act
Private employers with worksites in New York State will soon need to comply with the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (HERO Act), recently signed into law by Governor Cuomo. This Act mandates all employers to adopt a written plan that meets minimum standards that are designed to combat the spread of infectious disease in the workplace. The New York State Department of Labor has published a model standard and model template plan that employers can use to satisfy this obligation. Also released by the Department of Labor are industry-specific templates.
By August 5, 2021, all private employers with a worksite in New York must either adopt the model plan, or alternatively develop its own safety plan that meets or exceeds the model standard. This Plan must also be provided within 30 days to all current employees, independent contractors, individuals working for digital applications/platforms and workers hired through a staffing agency. It must also be posted in a conspicuous location and provided to new employees upon hire. The plan must also be provided to employees again within 15 days after reopening in the event of a worksite closure due to an airborne infectious disease.
It is important to note, however, that while the plan must be adopted by August 5, it does not need to go into effect as of that date. The plan only needs to be activated when the New York State Commissioner of Health designates an airborne infectious disease as highly contagious that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health. At this time, the Commissioner has not designated COVID-19 as an airborne infectious disease.
Once the Commissioner does make a designation, the plan should be reviewed and updated as needed in order to comply with guidance and regulations from federal, state and local health agencies.
Another provision of the HERO Act that takes effect November 1 requires all employers with at least 10 employees in New York state to permit employees to establish a joint labor-management safety committee to raise health and safety issues and evaluate workplace safety protocols.
Employees who fail to abide by the plan adoption may be fined at least $50 per day, with greater penalties for failing to abide by an adopted plan (between $1,000 and $10,000.