New York legislators voted on extensive new workplace health and safety protections in response to the Covid-19 pandemic known as The New York Health and Essential Rights Act, or NY HERO Act. The purpose of the bill is to prevent occupational exposure to an airborne infectious disease by:
“Require the Departments of Labor and Health (DOH) to implement enforceable minimum standards for workplace safety. The regulations must include protocols on testing, PPE, social distancing, hand hygiene, disinfection, and engineering controls. Workers would also be given a direct role in monitoring and reporting violations through workplace health and safety committees and employees would be protected from retaliation for utilizing their rights under the law.”
NY HERO Act has the support of over 100 labor unions, including AFL-CIO, The New York State Nurses Association, and the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. It will be industry-specific worker committees that craft the minimum standards. Workers have been asking for clear airborne infections disease standards combined with enforceable labor regulations since the early days of the pandemic and believe this legislation accomplishes that.
The bill has received pushback from the business community including the National Federation of Independent Business, New York State Restaurant Association and the Business Council. They are concerned with the provision since it also allows employees to sue employers for noncompliance with these Covid-19 safety protocols, believing this will open the door to frivolous lawsuits. They also note that contact tracing data has found these businesses are not a significant source of transmission.
For terms of this bill “EMPLOYEE” includes any person providing labor or services for remuneration for a private entity or business within the state, without regard to an individuals’ immigration status and include but not be limited to, part-time workers, independent contractors, domestic workers, home care and personal care workers, day laborers, farmworkers, and other temporary and seasonal workers. Also included are individuals working for staffing agencies, contractors or subcontractors on behalf of the employer at any individual work site, as well as any individual delivering goods or transporting people at, to or from the work site on behalf of the employer, regardless of whether delivery or transport is conducted by an individual or entity that would otherwise be deemed an employer. Not included are employees of the state, any political subdivision of the state, a public authority, or any other government agency or instrumentality.