A bill that would require minimum COVID-19 protocols for workplaces in New York is facing mounting opposition from the state's business community.
The provision would set mandates for preventing the spread of the virus in workplaces, including breaks for hand washing, supplies of personal protective equipment and social distancing.
But business organizations in a memorandum of opposition pointed to a range of concerns and called the measure a "burdensome regulatory framework" that could expose employers to lawsuits.
"The combination of these burdens will create significant new costs during a period of unprecedented economic distress," the business groups wrote in the memo. "Further, this bill makes no distinction between large corporate entities and the small, local businesses that have suffered specific duress during the pandemic."
New York was among the first states to enter into a shutdown last year in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the northeast was among the hardest hit in the early weeks of the pandemic.
The state's unemployment picture has started to improve, though the rate in March remained higher than the rest of the country on average.
The business organizations signaling their opposition to the bill range from industries like restaurants to construction as well as regional entities across New York. The economy, they wrote, remains in a state of uncertainty and flux. At the same time, they pointed to contact tracing data conducted by the state that found places of business are not significant sources of transmission.
"This is because businesses value their employees and customers above all else and have prioritized their safety and wellbeing before and during the pandemic," the groups wrote. "State legislators should be prioritizing creative ways to ease the cost of doing business for New York’s businesses and job creators to ensure our recovery is fast, full, and fair across the state and across the economy."
The proposed workplace protocol measure has won the backing of labor unions and community organizations.
The measure's Senate sponsor, Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris, defended the bill known as the NY Hero Act and blasted the opposition.
“It is shocking to see these organizations oppose efforts to ensure workplaces are safe from the further spread of COVID-19," he said. "Our recently enacted state budget proves we can both provide for the safety of working people through the enactment of the NY HERO Act and support small businesses with $1 billion in additional state relief."