By Hank Kita, STA Executive Director
In recent months, I have written about ongoing legislative actions coming from Albany that will impose yet more rules and regulations for our STA subcontractor members. This month, I must unfortunately inform you of the passage of yet another piece of legislation with potential negative impacts for our members. This latest legislation is known as the New York Hero Act.
With the best of “misguided” intentions, both houses of the Legislature recently passed the Hero Act which is now on the desk of Governor Cuomo awaiting his action. I am hoping that he vetoes this bill!
In simple terms, the Hero Act is intended to ensure workplace safety for New York’s employees. While laudable, this Act contains several burdens on businesses that would unfortunately restrict their ability to make a post COVID pandemic comeback. It would require the New York State Labor Department to issue minimum health and safety standards including access to protective equipment, time for handwashing and social distancing. These “common sense” practices which have already been implemented by most businesses during the COVID pandemic, are not the most problematic provisions of the Hero Act however. The most troublesome and onerous provisions of this bill include:
- Open up employers to more lawsuits under a “private right to action” provision that allows employees to sue for noncompliance with COVID safety protocols;
- Require any business with 10 or more employees to form joint labor-management workplace safety committees. Members of these committees would be able to raise health and safety concerns that the employer must respond to, and would be permitted to attend training without the loss of any pay. This safety committee provision would in essence establish another layer of “collective bargaining” for our members, even beyond those already in place with their respective trade associations and unions.
The Hero Act adds yet another layer of worker safety beyond that already mandated and enforced at the state level by the New York State Department of Labor and at the federal level by OSHA. This Act basically tries to make permanent safety provisions that the state put in place during the COVID pandemic. Just as many maintain that it is appropriate for Governor Cuomo’s emergency powers to have an end date, the mandates in the Hero Act on social distancing and PPE really do not have to be permanently set in state law.
The STA will be working with local and statewide groups such as the BTEA, New York State Business Council, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance and others to have the Governor veto this legislation or propose alternate language that would limit the potential for frivolous and unnecessary litigation that might be spurred by its provisions.
I will keep you informed of the progress being made in altering the provisions of this legislation or having it outright vetoed by Governor Cuomo.