The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the serious threat posed by unchecked airborne infectious diseases, and has prompted New York to pass the Health and Essential Rights Act (aka the “HERO Act”), which serves to establish health and safety protocols for workers across the state. Like we said in our coverage back in June, the mandatory safety standards set forth by the act apply to all airborne diseases, not just COVID-19, and as such are intended to remain a permanent feature of the employee safety measures established by virtually all private employers across the state.
As with the introduction of any new piece of legislation, questions remained even after the law came into effect. At the end of September, the Department of Labor issued an updated FAQ to address lingering and emergent issues with Section 1 of the Act, which relates to the implementation of safety plans.
Until at least October 31, COVID-19 continues to be classified as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health” under the HERO Act.
That means that before October 31, private employers must:
- Draft a plan that complies with DOL guidance on the HERO Act;
- Put that plan into effect; and
- Give employees (and contractors!) a verbal review of the plan.