Law firm Seyfarth Shaw issued a release this month reminding New York cooperatives and condominiums that they are subject to the New York Health and Essential Rights (HERO) Act that was signed into law on May 5, 2021. The new Department of Labor (DOL) workplace health and safety law is intended to protect employees from airborne infectious diseases such as COVID-19 in the workplace.
All New York State employers, including cooperatives and condominiums, must comply with this law. There are three dates that employers and employees should be aware of in regard to the law, says the release:
- August 5, 2021: Employers must adopt a safety protocol. They can use the DOL’s model safety protocol (available here), which generally tracks the state’s recently discontinued COVID-19 guidelines.
- September 4, 2021, or within 30 days of officially adopting a safety protocol: Employers must provide the adopted safety protocol to their employees, including building staff, and post the protocol in a “visible and prominent location.” (Due to the Labor Day holiday, notes Seyfarth attorneys, the likely effective date for this obligation is Tuesday, September 7).
- November 1, 2021: A separate part of the law goes into effect that requires employers to permit employees to form a joint labor-management workplace safety committee with employee and employer designees. The DOL has not yet issued guidance regarding this portion of the law.
The DOL has emphasized that the law requires adoption of a safety protocol within the statutory deadline, but it does not yet include a requirement for activation of the protocol. At the current time, the Commissioner of Health has not designated any specific airborne infectious disease—including COVID-19—as a highly-contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.
Nevertheless, failure to comply with the HERO Act can result in monetary fines, agency investigations, and employee-initiated lawsuits, the law firm warns.