BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo officially signed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act – also known as the HERO Act – into law.
The legislation requires the state to create rules that will protect employees during infectious disease outbreaks. Employers must then enforce clear guidelines for things like employee health screenings, wearing personal protection equipment and disinfecting the workplace.
Brian Brown-Cashdollar of the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health said this will save lives.
“Beyond COVID, we finally have an infectious disease standard in New York State that we have been fighting for for almost 20 years,” he said. “The workers under the HERO Act do have a right to sue their employer if they do not keep them safe [and] if they do not follow the standards set by New York State.”
But some believe this law isn’t necessary, saying there are already organizations and rules in place to handle workplace safety.
“It’s duplicative,” said Frank Kerbein, the director of the Center of Human Resources at the Business Council of New York State. “Employers have been working under the New York Forward guidelines since last March when the pandemic started. We work under the federal Occupational Safety Health Act law that requires us to maintain workplaces free from hazards that could cause illness, serious injury or death.”
State Democrats have agreed to add certain amendments in the coming weeks which would give businesses a clear timeline when they must fix certain violations before they could face lawsuits from their employees.
Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.