New York State has enacted various laws and regulations to protect workers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:
- The NYS Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO ACT), which protects private sector employees against exposure and disease during a future airborne infectious disease outbreak.
- The Emergency Preparedness Law, which requires public employers to adopt a plan for operations in the event of a declared public health emergency involving a communicable disease.
- COVID-19 regulations, which require all employers to take various health and safety measures for the worksite. They include providing benefits – including sick leave, paid family leave, and disability benefits – to New York employees impacted by mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.
Employees have a right to file a complaint for violations of these laws and regulations. See "File a Complaint" below.
The New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act) was signed into law on May 5, 2021. The law mandates extensive new workplace health and safety protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the NY HERO Act is to protect employees against exposure and disease during a future airborne infectious disease outbreak.
On September 6, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the designation of COVID-19 as an airborne infectious disease under the HERO Act. This designation requires all employers to implement workplace safety plans.
Under this law, the New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL), in consultation with the NYS Department of Health, has developed a new Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard, a Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan, and various industry-specific model plans for the prevention of airborne infectious disease. Employers can choose to adopt the applicable policy template/plan provided by NYS DOL or establish an alternative plan that meets or exceeds the standard’s minimum requirements.
The airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans must go into effect when an airborne infectious disease is designated by the New York State Commissioner of Health as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.
The standard and model plans are available in English and Spanish. Employers are required to provide a copy of the adopted airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan and post the same in a visible and prominent location within each worksite. Templates and resources are available below.
HERO Act Industry-Specific Templates
According to the Emergency Preparedness Law, public employers are required to have a written plan for operations in the event of a declared public health emergency, including COVID-19. All public employees should have access to this plan.
Your employer must take various safety and health precautions for the worksite, including providing you with a face covering, ensuring that social distancing is being followed, making hand washing and sanitizing stations available, and making sure that cleaning and disinfection are occurring frequently. Your employer should make operational adjustments such as creating policies to enable employees to work remotely due to pandemic-related reasons and staggering shifts to reduce workplace density. Your employer may not threaten or retaliate against you for complaining that the business has failed to take adequate safety and health measures.
The law provides benefits - including sick leave, paid family leave, and disability benefits - to New York employees impacted by mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. Quarantine leave is available retroactively. These benefits do not have an expiration date. Employers otherwise required to provide paid sick leave may not make you use existing sick leave or other leave accruals, in lieu of providing COVID leave benefits. See more information under COVID-19 Resources below.
Paid Sick Leave
Other Leaves of Absence for Health Conditions: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Frequently Asked Questions about Wages and Hours.
Labor Laws Regarding Fringe Benefit Payments:
Section 198c of the New York State Labor Law, Benefits or Wage Supplements
Local/regional NYS Department of Health offices for COVID-19 questions regarding the quarantine period.
Information and guidance from the NYS Department of Health about cleaning, disinfecting, and more.
Discrimination and Retaliation related to Your Human Rights:
For complaints regarding workplace discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, or other protected category, you can contact the NYS Division of Human Rights, the NYC Commission on Human Rights (for workplaces in NYC), or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Continuation of Health Insurance:
For coverage issues associated with an employer with 20 or more employees, contact the U.S. Employee Benefits Security Administration. For an employer with less than 20 employees, contact the NYS Department of Financial Services.
A COVID-related complaint may be filed if your employer has threatened or fired you for reasons related to COVID-19, or you qualify for COVID-19 paid sick leave and your employer refuses to pay it.
**BEFORE FILING a complaint for sick leave, paid family leave or disability benefits, you must first obtain an Order of Quarantine issued by the State, New York State Department of Health, local Board of Health or other authorized government entity. A Doctor’s order to quarantine, or your employer simply directing you to remain at home, is not a sufficient basis to file for this leave.