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New York Lawmakers Pass Workplace Pandemic Safety Law

April 26, 2021

New York lawmakers have passed a critical bill—S1034B/A2681B—requiring businesses to mandate infection control rules in workplaces, according to a news release from the New York Senate.

The New York Health and Essential Rights (HERO) Act passed the state’s assembly last week. The bill’s summary reads that it will prevent “occupational exposure to an airborne infectious disease by implementing a model infectious disease exposure prevention standard and requiring employers to implement such model or a similar plan.”

Additionally, the bill will set standards for the use of personal protective equipment, social distancing practices among employees, and methods for disinfecting workplaces, according to the Times Union.

The bill’s sponsors—Michael Gianaris, Senate Deputy Leader, and Karina Reyes, Assembly Member—said the bill will establish worker safety committees for employers with 10 or more employees to monitor and report on compliance.

“Too many workers have already sacrificed their health for our community’s benefit. The New York HERO Act honors their efforts by giving workers the tools to protect themselves while on the job,” said Gianaris.

“We need to ensure that corporations, who have made billions during this pandemic provide adequate protections to their employees and frontline workers,” said Reyes.

The bill is supported by more than 100 labor, community, and safety organizations. “Ensuring that employers provide a safe, healthy workplace and that workers have a voice in their own safety is a crucial step forward,” said Thomas Gesualdi, president of Teamsters Joint Council 16. “We look forward to this bill being signed into law as quickly as possible.”

However, some New York business advocacy organizations, including the New York State Business Council, are opposed to the bill. Nineteen of them wrote an opposition letter on April 16 stating that they believe local businesses would suffer from new costs under the law. The legislation would “expose distressed employers to predatory lawsuits and mandates the organization of ‘workplace health and safety committees’ with ambiguous functions, purposes, and authority,” according to the letter.

The bill is expected to pass a final version with minor amendments and be sent to the governor for approval, according to the Times Union.

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