The New York State Commissioner of Health’s designation of COVID-19 under the Health & Essential Rights Act (“HERO Act”) as an “airborne infectious disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health” ended on March 17, 2022. What this means: effective immediately, private-sector employers are no longer required to implement and follow their HERO Act-based “infectious disease prevention plans.” 

Employers should keep in mind that HERO Act requires that employers adopt a prevention plan and keep the plans in reserve. Employers only need implement their plan, however, when the New York State Commissioner of Health designates a particular disease as an airborne infectious disease.

The New York State Commissioner of Health first designated COVID-19 as an airborne infectious disease on September 6, 2021, requiring covered employers to activate their prevention plans. The Commissioner of Health extended the designation on multiple occasions.

Although the designation of COVID-19 being a disease that “presents a serious harm to the public” has ended for the time being, covered employers must be mindful of other obligations under the HERO Act that continue on even though no designation  is in effect. Not only must covered employers at least create a prevention plan, but they are also required to:

  • Provide a copy to employees within 30 days after creating one;
  • Give a copy to any new employees when they are hired;
  • Post the plan in each work site so employees can view it;
  • Add the plan to their employee handbook if they maintain one;
  • Update the plan as needed; and
  • Covered employers with 10 or more employees must allow employees to serve on “joint labor-management workplace safety committees.” (For more information, please see our earlier alert).

The Harris Beach Labor & Employment Practice Group will discuss this development, and several other current topics, in a March 24th webinar – register here.

If you have any questions, please contact the Harris Beach attorney with whom you usually work.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as Washington, D.C., New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.