The New York City Council is planning to evaluate how effectively both the City, as an employer, and private employers disseminated and implemented COVID-19 workplace guidance over the past year with the goal of strengthening how the public and private sectors manage future public health emergencies. On February 28, 2021, the Council enacted Int. 2161-2020 (the “Law”), which establishes a board to review the workplace health and safety guidance that agencies and private employers issued to their respective employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The newly formed board will ultimately submit a final report and recommendations to the Mayor and Speaker of the Council by December 15, 2021. The Law is effective immediately.
Makeup of the Board
The board will consist of nine members who have “demonstrated expertise relevant to the purpose and duties of the board.” The members, who will receive no compensation for their service on the board, will include:
- the commissioners of health and mental hygiene, citywide administrative services, consumer and workplace protection, and labor relations;
- two members appointed by the Mayor;
- two members appointed by the Speaker of the Council, one of whom is a member of organized labor; and
- one member appointed by the Public Advocate.
Additionally, the Mayor will designate a chair from among the members of the board and an agency to provide administrative support. All members must be appointed by March 30, 2021. In the event of a vacancy, a successor will be appointed in the same manner as the original appointments.
The Board’s Task and Duties
The board’s mandate is to review how successful public and private employers were in communicating their health and safety policies and protocols to their employees and in providing any relevant employee training on these practices. Based on their evaluation of the information received, the board will then provide recommendations for improvement, as warranted. To be clear, the board’s mandate is limited; its job is not to evaluate how well or poorly the City fared in handling the pandemic as a government body, but rather, how it performed as an employer.
The board will hold two public hearings to solicit testimony from employees, relevant experts, organized labor, public employers, and private employers (with 10 or more employees) across a wide range of industries, including construction, non-profits, health care, retail, and hospitality. The board will assign dates for these hearings at its first meeting, which must be held by April 29, 2021. Further, the board will provide 30-days’ public notice of the scheduled hearings and engage in a public outreach campaign to encourage participation by all relevant stakeholders.
Finally, the Law tasks the board with presenting its findings and recommendations in two reports: (1) a preliminary report produced within 60 days following the first public hearing, and (2) a final report by December 15, 2021. The preliminary report will include initial recommendations to help both public and private employers more effectively protect and inform employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. In its final report, the board will finalize those recommendations and provide additional recommendations on health and safety protocols for future public health emergencies.
The board and its responsibilities will terminate 180 days after it submits its final report and recommendations.
We will continue to monitor the board’s progress and report any significant developments, such as hearing dates and other ways employers can participate in the process.
Christopher Shur, a Law Clerk – Admission Pending (not admitted to the practice of law) in the firm’s New York office, contributed to the preparation of this post.