On May 5, 2021, the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (HERO Act or Act) was signed into law. The purpose of the HERO Act is to protect employees against exposure and disease (e.g., COVID-19) during a future airborne infectious disease outbreak. Under this Act, the New York State Department of Labor (DOL), in consultation with the NYS Department of Health (DOH), developed an Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard, including a Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan (Plan), and various industry-specific model plans for the prevention of airborne infectious disease. The Act allows employers to choose to adopt the applicable Plan provided by DOL or to establish an alternative
Plan that meets or exceeds the standard’s minimum requirements.
The standard requires employers to provide employees with a copy of the Plan, post the Plan in a visible and prominent location within each worksite, and include a copy of the Plan in the company’s employee handbook, if they maintain one. Employers are also required to put the Plan in effect when an airborne infectious disease is designated by the New York State Commissioner of Health as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.
Throughout the course of the pandemic the active designation of COVID-19 as an airborne infectious disease was extended multiple times, but on March 17, 2022, the designation ended due to a downward trend in COVID-19 cases. Meaning, private sector employers are not currently required to implement their Plans. However, this does not mean that employers are no longer required to have a Plan, and employers still have obligations under the Act during periods of a non-active designation.
Next Steps for Employers
Although, the active designation of COVID-19 as an airborne infectious disease has ended, employers are still required to maintain a written Plan that would be ready to be implemented in the event of another active designation. Even without an active designation, employers must continue to:
- Provide a copy of the Plan to employees within 30 days after creating one;
- Give a copy of the Plan to any new employees when they are hired;
- Post the Plan in each work site so employees can view it;
- Add the Plan to their employee handbook if they maintain one;
- Update the Plan as needed; and
- Covered employers with 10 or more employees must allow employees to serve on joint labor-management workplace safety committees.
Templates and resources for HERO Act compliance are available from the DOL by clicking here. Current HR Works Strategic Services clients may also reach out to their HR Strategic Partner or the Virtual Helpline for additional assistance with HERO Act compliance. Non-HR Works clients can contact us at 1-877-219-9062 for immediate assistance.