HERO Act Amendments Clarify Employer Obligations

By Nicholas J. Fiorenza, Managing Partner & PGCA Association Counsel, Ferrara Fiorenza PC

Members continue to call with questions concerning their obligations under the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act). As we have previously reported [see earlier blog post], this law, signed on May 5, 2021, by Governor Cuomo, is an important part of the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Broadly speaking, the law introduces two new employer requirements.

Section 1 of the law directs all employers in the private sector to adopt model standards and a policy for the prevention of airborne infectious disease exposure. The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) will create industry-specific standards and policies, as well as generally applicable provisions for all worksites. Employers are to use either the State’s policy, or their own which meets or exceeds the DOL’s model.

Section 2 of the law mandates a process to establish joint management-employee safety committees. The committees are intended to facilitate the identification, discussion and remediation of health and safety issues at work.

While the law initially had an effective date of June 4, 2021, that date was delayed allowing time for the Legislature to act on certain technical clarifications. These amendments were passed on June 7, 2021, and signed into law by the Governor on June 11, 2021.

While not changing the heart of the Act, the amendments offer some key clarifications:

Section 1 Clarifications

The effective date for an employers’ standards and policy requirements is now July 5, 2021. However, employers are not obligated to distribute their own policy until 30 days after the Commissioner of NY DOL, working with the New York State Department of Health, promulgates the model airborne infectious disease prevention standard and related policy. This has not happened yet and we continue to monitor the situation closely. We will advise our members as soon as possible about the standard and related compliance requirements.

Section 2 Clarifications 

Safety Committee requirements will go into effect on November 1, 2021. Significantly, the amendments confirm that an employer’s existing safety committee, so long as “consistent” with the requirements of the law, are sufficient. In other words, an additional committee is not necessary. Further, the amendments delete a provision in the original law allowing committees to review employer issues related to the workers’ compensation law.

The basic structure of the committees, however, is unchanged. They are to meet at least quarterly, on paid company time, lasting no longer than two hours. Training for safety committee participants is also considered paid time under the law, for up to four hours.

Look for additional updates and a compliance guide when the State’s model standards become available. In the meantime, contact us with any immediate questions.

For more information or assistance with any employment-related matter, contact Tim Freeman, President, Print & Graphic Communications Association
Office: (716) 691-3211
Cell: (716) 983-3826


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