On June 11, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed into law several amendments to the New York HERO Act; a law whose main purpose is to ensure that employers have a plan in place to protect their employees in the event of another pandemic, or the emergence of another dangerous infectious agent.
The Act went into effect on May 5 of this year, and prior to its amendment required all employers in New York to draft and implement an Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan by June 4. However, among other things, the Governor’s recent amendments extends the deadline for employers to implement their plan to August 5, 2021; it also requires them to adopt a plan within 30 days of the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) releasing regulatory guidelines and a model plan - drafted in consultation with the Commissioner of Health - to help guide employers when crafting their own plans.
In addition to a general model Prevention Plan, NYSDOL has also released model plans for specific industries, as well as an Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard. While none of the model plans released by NYSDOL are specific to co-op and condo communities, or to real estate in general, community associations, co-op corporations, and management firms with employees are subject to the law, and will need to create and implement a plan that is specific and appropriate for their employment arrangement and situations. Within 30 days of a plan being finalized, the HERO Act mandates that employers distribute it to all current employees, and to all new employees upon hire - both in English, and in the employee’s primary language, if a translation of the plan is available.
Furthermore, starting on November 1, 2021, employers with at least 10 employees must allow their employees to create a Joint Labor-Management Workplace Safety Committee, if they so desire. These employee-dominant committees will work with employers to shape health and safety policies in the workplace. Importantly, the superintendents, porters, doorpersons, handypersons, etc. of co-ops, condos, and homeowners associations are considered employees under the HERO Act, and as such, if there are 10 or more employers at a given building or HOA, they would be permitted to form a committee.
It should also be noted that while every employer is required to have a plan developed by August 5, 2021, employers are not presently required to immediately implement it. The plan only has to be put into effect when the Commissioner of Health designates that there is an infectious agent or disease that presents a “serious risk of harm to the public health,” which given Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement removing most of the State’s COVID-19 restrictions, is not currently the case in New York.