New York State Labor Law § 27-C (“Emergency Preparedness Law”) required that by April 1st all public employers adopt operational plans for public health emergencies (the “Emergency Operations Plans”) to adequately protect workers in the event of another state disaster emergency involving a communicable disease. Public employers that have not yet adopted an Emergency Operations Plan could be subject to New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) enforcement procedures.
Who qualifies as a “Public Employer”?
Labor Law § 27-C(1) considers all state, county, and local governments, public authorities (bridge, water, airport, etc.), commissions, public corporations, agencies and school districts as “public employers.” With respect to school districts, the requirement to establish and enact Emergency Operations Plans has been codified into state education law for inclusion in school safety plans.
What should Emergency Operations Plans address?
Emergency Operations Plans should include and address the following main points:
- A list and description of positions considered essential;
- Protocols for non-essential employees to follow to work remotely;
- A description of how staggered work shifts would be implemented;
- Policy on leave in the event employees require testing, treatment, quarantine, etc.;
- Protocols to document specific hours and work locations including off-site visits for essential employees and contractors;
- The process for procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, as well as a PPE storage plan aimed at preventing degradation, and permitting immediate access in the event of emergency;
- Process outlining what to do when an employee is exposed to the communicable disease;
- Protocols on emergency housing for essential employees impacted by the disease subject of the public health emergency; and
- Any other requirement determined by the New York State Department of Health, such as testing and contact tracing protocols.
For full details, see Labor Law § 27-C(3).
Should Emergency Operations Plans be Published or Circulated?
Under Labor Law § 27-C(4) public employers shall publish final Emergency Operations Plans: (i) in a clear and conspicuous location on-site; (ii) in the employee handbook, to the extent that the employer provides such handbook to its employees; and (iii) on the public employer’s website or on the internet accessible to employees.
What if we haven’t adopted an Emergency Operations Plan?
The NYSDOL has established a website with sample templates for State Agencies and Authorities and Local Jurisdictions, as well as a checklist for completion of Emergency Operations Plans. These templates may be used by public employers to complete Emergency Operations Plans.
In addition, Labor Law § 27-C(5) permits the NYSDOL to establish procedures to allow for public employees and contractors to contact and inform them of any alleged violations. A website has been established for public employees to file complaints against public employers for alleged violations of the Emergency Preparedness Law (e.g. failure to adopt one). Such reports may be made anonymously.
A public employer that is found to have violated the Emergency Preparedness Law may be subject to the enforcement procedures set forth in Labor Law § 27-a(6), including civil penalties.
Should you have questions or inquiries regarding Emergency Operations Plans, please contact Simone M. Freeman in our Municipal Law Group at 516-746-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.