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What is the NYS HERO Act and How Does it Affect Your Business?

Written by Jeremy Higgins

The NYS HERO Act, short for New York Health and Essential Rights Act, is a law that aims to strengthen the legal right to a safe workplace where there were legal gaps on matters infectious diseases. This Act requires the New York State Department of Labor to work with the state department of health to create and issue health standards for preventing airborne infectious diseases in the workplace.  

Additionally, the Act requires that all private employers in New York allow employees to form a joint employer-employee workplace health and safety committee approved to raise issues and evaluate workplace health and safety policies.

So, how does this Act affect your business? Read on to learn more as we double down on everything you need to know about the NYS HERO Act.

Establishment of Model Safety Plans

The New York Department of Labor must collaborate with the Department of Health to develop model safety plans and mandatory guidelines that set the minimum acceptable standards by June 4, 2021.

But one plan cannot fit all businesses, so the development of these guidelines will be industry-specific and with the help of a workforce committee drawn from these industries.

The model plans will cover the following:

  • Face covering 
  • PPE Requirements 
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting of Shared Equipment Required 
  • Compliance with Mandatory or Precautionary Orders of Isolation 
  • Social Distancing 
  • On-Site health screenings
  • Accessible Hygiene Supplies Required (Such as Hand Sanitizer)
  • Compliance With Environmental Standards, Such as Airflow 
  • Required Designated Safety Plan Supervisors 
  • Verbal Review of Policies, Safety Standards, and Employee Rights.  
Anti-Retaliation Protections

The NYS HERO act prohibits retaliation, threatening, or discrimination (effective June 4, 2021) if an employee does the following:

  • Report violations of the Act
  • Report concern regarding exposure to airborne infectious disease
  • Refuses to perform their workplace duties if they reasonably believe, in good faith, that such work puts the employee, co-workers, or the public at risk of exposure to an airborne disease.

The NYS HERO Act requires employers to do the following:

1.    Allow the Establishment of Employee-Driven Safety Committees

The Act requires that employers with more than ten employees allow non-supervisory employees to establish a safety committee by non-supervisory employees effective November 1, 2021.

This committee will have the following responsibilities.

  • Submit any health and safety issues to the employer 
  • Schedule quarterly meetings during work hours. 
  • Take part in any site visit by government and safety officials. 
  • Review the health and safety policy put in place by the employer.
  • Review the implementation of any policy in response to any health and safety law. 
  • Review any health and safety-related report filed by the employer.
2.    Adhere to the Notice Requirements

Employers can establish their own written prevention plan, provided it complies with or exceeds the one set in the state model. 

They must also adhere to the following notice requirements.

  • Post the prevention plan in a well-trafficked area within the workplace. 
  • Include the prevention plan in the employee handbook
  • Make the prevention plan available upon request by employees or relevant authorities
  • Provide the prevention plan to all employees upon hire or when the organization reopens after closure due to an airborne infectious disease. 
  • Provide the prevention plan English and the language each employee identifies as his or her primary language.
What Are the Consequences If One Fails to Comply with the NYS HERO Act?

Employers who fail to comply with the NYS HERO Act may face the following penalties

  • A daily fine of $50 for not implementing a compliant prevention plan or $1,000 and $10,000 for not abiding by an adopted Prevention Plan
  • A daily fine of $200 for not implementing a compliant prevention plan or between $1,000 and $20,000 for not abiding by an adopted prevention plan if the state determines that the employer violated the NYS HERO Act in the preceding six years

Besides, employees may file a lawsuit against employers who violate safety standards, putting them at risk of exposure. 

In such cases, the employees may are subject to receive

  • Reimbursement of court costs and attorney Fees 
  • Liquidated Damages of up to $20,000

The NYS HERO Act aims to protect all classes of workers in the private sector regardless of their legal/social standing, such as immigration status or unusual working conditions like an independent contractor or seasonal positions.

Need help navigating the NYS HERO Act? Contact us today to get started.

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