Governor Signs Legislation Requiring Plans to Protect Public Workers in Future Health Emergencies

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S8617B/A10832) requiring all public employers to create plans to adequately protect workers in the event of another state disaster emergency involving a communicable disease. The plans would apply to both the state and localities, including school districts. Plans must be submitted to unions and labor management committees within 150 days, and plans need to be finalized on April 1, 2021.

“Thanks to personal sacrifice and hard work, New Yorkers have bent the curve of coronavirus, and we all owe a debt of gratitude to the frontline workers who helped carry our state through some of its darkest days,” Governor Cuomo said. “The federal government’s failure to plan for or respond to this emergency put our state in harm’s way, and we can never let that happen again. That’s why this Labor Day, we are honoring public employees’ efforts over the last six months by planning for the next emergency — and ensuring all levels of government in New York protect public workers from a future pandemic.”

Senator Andrew Gounardes said, “Requiring public employers to draft and publish a contingency plan for the next global health crisis is integral to save lives and rebuild trust. We lost too many public employees to COVID. This bill will protect those who keep our city running.  I want to thank the Governor for signing this and the many partners in labor who helped make this bill a reality.”

Assemblymember Peter Abbate said, “I’m glad to see this legislation enacted. I think it will go a long way to protecting our state’s valuable public workforce.”

Mario Cilento, President of the NYS AFL-CIO, said, “Today, in his Labor Day message, Governor Cuomo noted that this pandemic has laid bare to the entire state and our country the heroism and bravery of essential workers. By signing this bill, the Governor backs up those words with tangible actions that will make workplaces safer for those courageous men and women who continue to sacrifice so much. We thank the Governor for his heartfelt message and for recognizing the essential workers who have delivered us through this challenging time. We look forward to working with the Governor to ensure we continue to make the safety and health of New York’s essential workforce a priority.”

Operation plans must include:

  • List and description of positions considered essential
  • Descriptions of protocols to follow to enable all non-essential employees to work remotely
  • Description of how employers would stagger work shifts to reduce overcrowding
  • Protocols for PPE
  • Protocol for when an employee is exposed to disease
  • Protocol for documenting hours and work locations for essential workers
  • Protocol for working with essential employees’ localities for identifying emergency housing if needed
  • Any other requirement determined by the New York State Department of Health, such as testing and contact tracing

Plans must be submitted to public unions for review. The Department of Labor will also create an online portal for public employees to report violations of health and safety rules for communicable diseases, including COVID-19.