New York Hero Act standards and model plans were released earlier this month.
The Hero Act, initially passed in May, requires employers to create health and safety standards aimed at protecting both employees and customers from airborne infectious diseases like the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, industry-specific templates were also published.
Though all employers must develop these plans, they only go into effect in case of an outbreak as designated by the New York commissioner of health.
Read more about New York requiring employers to develop plans for infectious diseases in a previous Employment Law News post.
UPDATE: Sept. 23, 2021: The state has issued a new labor law posting regarding the Hero Act.
New York Hero Act
While employers must adopt an airborne diseases prevention plan, New York officials say no designation has been made and plans are not required to be in effect at this time.
Still, private employers in New York should review the standards and templates, and create a plan as required.
Starting with the Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard, the provisions generally require employers to:
- Develop an exposure-prevention plan
- Determine exposure controls, i.e., health screenings, masks, social distancing, etc.
- Not take adverse action against employees reporting violations or exercising rights under the law
The Model Airborne Infectious Disease and Exposure Prevention Plan, meanwhile, goes into more detail about the above, including forms to be filled out and displayed. Much of the document will be familiar to employers that have dealt with COVID-19 restrictions over the past year-plus.
Generally, the model plans lay out:
- Exposure controls during a designated outbreak
- Cleaning methods and schedules
- Training and relaying information
- Plan evaluations during an outbreak
“As a nurse, I know how hard this last year has been for those working on the frontlines of the pandemic – worried about their health, the health of those around them and whether their work environment was a safe one,” Assemblymember Karines Reyes said in a statement. “We need to ensure that corporations, who have made billions during this pandemic provide adequate protections to their employees and frontline workers. I am proud that we are passing this legislation that will save lives and protect those that are on the front line of public health crises.”
Hero Act Industry-Specific Templates
The New York Department of Labor has also rolled out industry-specific templates for employers, including:
- Delivery services
- Domestic workers
- Emergency response
- Food services
- Manufacturing and industry
- Personal services
- Private education
- Private transportation
Employers must adopt a state plan or develop their own plan that meets or exceeds Hero Act standards.
COVID-19 and Employment Law
Employers have been through a lot since the initial outbreak of COVID-19. Forced closures, new safety standards, state and local restrictions… But even as the nation begins to climb out of the pandemic, the impacts on employers continue:
Plus, the effects of the pandemic on low-wage workers has also added to larger discussions about minimum wage, adding to the legislative action employers must monitor.
Employers in New York likely have many of the elements of the Hero Act in place. But formalizing a plan must be completed regardless.
Also, heightened concern over future infectious disease outbreaks could prompt these plans to be activated even in instances less severe than COVID-19.