As we have reported, since March, New York State has implemented a variety of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect workers during the pandemic. These measures include essential business designations, limiting in-person work, paid leave for certain employees impacted by COVID-19, phased reopening of nonessential businesses, mandatory health and safety protocols, and requiring a business reopening safety plan. The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) is charged with enforcing many of these measures with which all New York businesses have been and are required to comply.
With many regions now in “Phase Three” of the state’s reopening scheme, the NYSDOL will likely begin auditing employers and investigating complaints to ensure that businesses are complying with New York’s many COVID-19 regulations. For example, the NYSDOL may request from employers an explanation or documentation of the health and safety measures in place at their in-person places of business. In addition, the NYSDOL may inquire as to whether employees have contracted COVID-19 and, if so, what protocols businesses implemented as a result.
Depending on the nature of the violation, an employer’s failure to comply with the state’s COVID-19 regulations could result in civil penalties (monetary in nature) or injunctive relief. It is critical, therefore, that Empire State employers have all of the required protocols in place as they continue to conduct business or begin to reopen.
To minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace, and to limit potential liability, New York employers should familiarize themselves with Governor Cuomo’s executive orders, the New York Forward initiative’s phased reopening guidance, and the guidelines promulgated by the New York State Department of Health. In addition, all Empire State businesses should ensure that they: (1) have a business reopening safety plan in place, (2) are following reopening guidelines applicable to their industry, and (3) are maintaining records and documentation related to COVID-19 as required by law.
If you have any questions concerning New York’s COVID-19 regulations or about complying with those regulations, Reed Smith’s Labor & Employment team is available to assist.