Many private employers in New York State must permit their employees to form workplace safety committees starting next Monday. The requirement is part of the
New York State HERO Act, which became law last May and was amended in June. If you have 10 or more employees, you must permit them to form a committee if they so choose.
Section 2 of the HERO Act, which takes effect on Nov. 1, states, "Employers shall permit employees to establish and administer a joint labor-management workplace safety committee, but not more than one committee per worksite, provided however that an employer that already has a workplace safety committee that is otherwise consistent with the requirements of this section, shall be exempted from creating an additional safety committee under this section." It defines "employer" as "any person, entity, business, corporation, partnership, limited liability company, or an association employing at least ten employees" but not including "the state, any political subdivision of the state, a public authority, or any other governmental agency or instrumentality."
The committees are authorized to:
- Raise health and safety concerns to the employer; the employer must respond to these issues.
- Review and provide feedback to any employer safety and health policies required by law.
- Review employer policies adopted in response to health and safety laws and regulations.
- Participate in visits by health or safety regulators to the worksite.
- Review any health and safety reports the employer submits to regulators.
- Meet at least once a quarter for no more than two hours at a time.
The law permits the committees to take on additional duties.
The committees are to be comprised of representatives of the employer and non-supervisory employees, with two-thirds of the members being non-supervisors chosen by those employees. They will be co-chaired by employer and non-supervisory employee representatives. Employers are forbidden to interfere in the selection of the non-supervisory employees or the employees' performance of committee duties. They also face stiff fines and employee lawsuits if they retaliate against any employees for their committee activities.
New York State Department of Labor has not yet provided guidance for employers on what actions they need to take. We're advising members to inform their employees that they have the right to form committees. The decision of whether to form one lies with the employees; the law does not require an employer to create one if the employees do not.
Big I New York presented a Gear Up! webinar on Oct. 25 titled NY HERO Act - Part 3 Workplace Safety Committees. A
recording of that webinar is available for you to view at any time. You must log in to this website in order to access that recording.