- Employers in New York state must implement the coronavirus safety plans they were required to devise earlier in the year, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Sept. 6.
- The state’s HERO Act, signed into law in May, obligated businesses to plan for employee health screenings, masking and social distancing requirements, workplace hygiene stations, workplace cleaning protocol, quarantine protocol and building airflow technology, according to the governor’s office. Alternatively, employers may adopt the state’s model plan.
- The law requires employers to implement those plans when the governor designates COVID-19 a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health, which Hochul did last week.
While the state didn’t make a deadline clear, attorneys from law firm Lowenstein Sandler wrote in a client alert that "the Act’s standard advises employers to ‘promptly activate’ their safety plans." Additionally, unless extended, the designation of COVID-19 as a highly contagious communicable disease will expire Sept. 30, the attorneys said.
It’s also important to note that the HERO Act protects worker complaints about alleged violations. This means employers may not take adverse actions against an employee because the employee followed a plan’s requirements, reported concerns on the implementation of a plan or refused to work over certain safety concerns, according to the state and governor’s office.
The law was among the first of its kind, but HR Dive sources correctly predicted that other states would follow suit, especially as the federal government declined to mandate coronavirus standards outside of healthcare settings. As of June, 14 states had adopted "comprehensive COVID worker safety protections," according to the National Employment Law Project. Employers also may need to note any applicable city ordinances.