New Workplace Law to Protect from Infectious Disease Spread

By Carla Hogan, Esq. & Zoila Sanchez, J.D., M.P.H.
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As many return back to the workplace upon getting vaccinated, efforts are required to ensure we continue to guard against the infectious diseases spreading in the workplace. The recently enacted NY HERO Act guides workplaces on how to best protect their employees.

The HERO Act has two parts: (1) the Safety Plan and (2) the Safety Committee.

Part 1: 

The Safety Plan applies to all private employers regardless of size. While employers can establish their own plans, these safety plans will be developed by the NYS Department of Labor (NYSDOL) and Department of Health to include:  

(1) employee health screenings;

(2) face coverings and personal protective equipment;

(3) hand washing signage;

(4) cleaning/disinfecting shared equipment and other surfaces;

(5) social distancing and quarantine orders;

(6) engineering controls such as air flow and ventilation;

(7) designated supervisor(s) to enforce safety standards;

(8) review of safety standards, employer policies, and employee rights;

(9) compliance with notice requirements to employees and government officials

Importantly, noncompliance with the Safety Plan can result in NYSDOL imposed penalties ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. 

Part 2:

The Safety Committee applies to all NYS private employers 10 or more employees. Members of the Safety Committee are selected by non- supervisory level employees (not the employer). 

These selected members will be provided training and responsible for:

(1) bringing safety concerns to the attention of the employer (who must respond); 

(2) reviewing the employer’s health and safety policy;

(3) reviewing any new health and safety policies;

(4) participating in site visits by health and safety officials;

(5) reviewing health and safety reports filed by the employer; 

(6) attending quarterly meetings.

Due to the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pronouncement, that fully vaccinated individuals can be doors and outdoors without wearing masks except when in health settings on public transportation or in specified areas where masks are required, there is tremendous confusion regarding which requirements apply.

Simultaneously, states and municipalities are free to impose more stringent requirements.  Considering the CDC guidance, New York is relaxing its onerous requirements starting May 19, 2021. 

It remains to be seen whether the CDC will pull back its new guidance. For now, employers should follow the newly announced NYS guidelines available here.

Employers can take steps now to ensure they are positioned to best prepare, for example, by familiarizing themselves with the requirements of the two-part law, and begin strategizing where to post signage, and review and modify their employee handbook and other policies and procedures.

If you need guidance on compliance with the NY Hero Act, you can contact Carla Hogan, Esq at: chogan@weisszarett.com or call 518-527-9981 or (516) 627-7000.

Carla Hogan, Esq. is an employment and health care lawyer with over three decades of experience counseling employers and employees on regulatory compliance, wages and hours law, discrimination matters and defending disability cases. In addition to negotiating and settling many employment and health care disputes, she also litigates those matters that cannot settle in the administrative forum or in court. As part of her healthcare practice, she represents licensed professionals in disciplinary matters, discrimination defense, employment termination, and negotiating new employment agreements. She regularly defends impaired professionals in front of OPD and OPMC, working with alternatives programs such as the NYS Professional Assistance Program, the Professional Assistance Program and the Committee on Physician’s Health. Ms. Hogan has developed training programs and lectured, and written extensively on healthcare and employment law compliance, and has trained businesses and government agencies on best employment practices. She has done extensive audit defense work both in healthcare and employment and has longstanding working relationships with the applicable State agencies (DOH, DOL, OMIG, etc.).  Ms. Hogan is also a health care transactional attorney and has formed – and unwound—numerous health care ventures in all areas of licensed practice.  Prior to starting her own firm in 2014 and later joining Weiss Zarett as Counsel, she was a partner at Boies Schiller & Flexner where she worked on high profile litigation matters and later Greenberg Traurig where she developed an expertise in managed care and managed care financing.

Ms. Sanchez has experience in supporting the Firm’s business and health care law, and litigation practice areas. She has supported attorneys representing physicians under OPMC investigation and other licensed professionals in OPD disciplinary cases. Additionally, she has assisted with furthering the Firm’s general business litigation work on matters related to bankruptcy, torts and commercial real estate. Ms. Sanchez has also assisted attorneys with transactional matters regarding corporate formation and organization of physician groups, commercial leases, physician employment agreements, and health care regulatory compliance.

Weiss Zarett is a Long Island law firm providing a wide array of legal services to the members of the health care and financial services industries, including corporate and transactional matters, employment matters, civil and administrative litigation, regulatory issues, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, and commercial real estate transactions.

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