On December 28, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law Senate Bill 9450, which added new enforcement provisions to the New York Health And Essential Rights Act’s (NY HERO Act) workplace safety committee requirements. The new law went into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.
As a reminder, the NY HERO Act was enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Section 1 of the NY HERO Act required employers to adopt and distribute an infectious disease exposure prevention plan (“safety plan”) and activate such safety plan upon the designation of an airborne infectious disease as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health. While no current designation is in effect (the designation of COVID-19 ended on March 17, 2022), employers should be prepared to activate their safety plan in the event of a designation, and should review their existing safety plan periodically for any updates as required by the NY HERO Act.
Section 2, the often-overlooked portion of the NY HERO Act, provides employees the right to establish and administer a joint labor-management workplace safety committee. The recent law adds new enforcement provisions, and serves as an amendment to this section of the NY HERO Act. It requires employers to recognize workplace safety committees formed by employees pursuant to the NY HERO Act within five business days of receiving a request from employees for committee recognition. Failure to do so will result in penalties of $50 a day until the violation is remedied. Previously, there was no explicit timeframe required for employers to recognize a workplace safety committee and no related specific civil penalties.
While the New York Department of Labor has issued FAQ guidance related to Section 1 of the NY HERO Act, the new law is the first development or update regarding Section 2 since the NY HERO Act was enacted and subsequently amended.
The new law serves as a reminder that the NY HERO Act, and, relatedly, COVID-19’s impact on the workplace, are not completely in the rearview mirror. Employers should confirm their compliance with the NY HERO Act by:
- evaluating their existing safety plans and revising or updating them as needed;
- distributing their safety plans to all new hires;
- including their safety plans in all updated handbooks;
- ensuring their safety plans are posted in a visible and prominent location in the workplace; and
- reviewing the workplace safety committee obligations and requirements, especially in light of the added enforcement provisions.