New York Assembly Bill A2681B that seeks to “prevent occupational exposure to an airborne infectious disease” by mandating face masks has passed the New York Senate and Assembly, awaits the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo to pass into law.
The law “prevents occupational exposure to an airborne infectious disease by implementing a model infectious disease exposure prevention standard and requiring employers to implement such model or a similar plan.”
However, the law goes beyond that; it also “provides that where an action brought by an employee under the provisions of this section, or a defense, counterclaim, or crossclaim brought by an employer in response thereto, is found upon judgment to be completely without merit in law and undertaken primarily to harass or maliciously injure another, the court may in its discretion impose sanctions against the attorney or party who brought such action, defense, counterclaim or crossclaim; makes related provisions.”
In other words, those seeking legal recourse to be exempted from the bill’s provisions risk not only losing the case, but also being subjected to sanctions, along with the attorney who filed the claim.
Besides face masks, the bill also mandates “hand hygiene stations” and “effective social distancing”, and “compliance with any applicable laws, rules, regulations, and standards.”
No employer may retaliate against an employee for reporting violations.
The penalty for violations is “not less than fifty dollars per day for failure to adopt an airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan, or not less than one thousand dollars nor more than ten thousand dollars for failure to abide by an adopted airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan.
“Provided, however, that if the commissioner finds that the employer has violated the provisions of this section in the preceding six years, he or she may assess a civil penalty of not less than two hundred dollars per day for failure to adopt an airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan, or not less than one thousand dollars nor more than twenty thousand dollars for failure to abide by an adopted airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan.”
The law permits establishing “workplace safety committees,” to “raise health and safety concerns, hazards, complaints, and violations to the employer to which the employer must respond.”