A new state law goes into effect on November 1, which will change labor relations as they pertain to occupational health.
Earlier this year, the state enacted the NY HERO Act. One provision of the bill, which required employers to have infectious disease prevention plans, took effect this summer. The other key provision of that bill – which takes effect in November — allows employees to create workplace safety committees to report on potential health risks.
This provision applies to private employers with 10+ employees. Employers, employees, and collective bargaining organizations should all be aware of the changes this law may make to their workplace.
What Do Committees Look Like?
- Employees may establish one “joint labor-management workplace safety committee” per worksite.
- Composed of both employer and employee designees
- 2/3 of members must be non-supervisory employees
- Employee members must be selected by & from non-supervisory employees
- Committee is co-chaired by one employer representative & one non-supervisory employee representative
- Collective bargaining representative responsible for selection of non-supervisory employees if a collective bargaining agreement is in place
- Employers cannot interfere with member selection
Committee Rights & Responsibilities
- Raise health and safety concerns, hazards, complaints and violations to the employer
- Provide feedback on any occupational safety and health policy in the workplace, and any other policy imposed in response to government-imposed health mandates
- Participate in governmental site visits
- Hold quarterly meetings during work hours for a maximum of 2 hours
- Committee designees permitted to attend workplace safety training of up to 4 hours without loss of pay
Takeaways for Employers
- Respond to concerns raised by committees
- Required by law
- Reduces liability
- Keeps workplace as safe as possible
- Committees not mandatory, but employers cannot interfere with their formation
- Employers who retaliate against employees for their actions taken pursuant to participation on a safety committee can be liable for civil penalties.
The most up-to-date information on the HERO Act can be found on the Department of Labor’s site. The BNP has numerous resources available to help employers understand the HERO Act. Full text of the applicable statute can be found here.