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Does New York Labor Law Apply When Construction Workers Contract Coronavirus?


New York Labor Law Attorneys

For construction workers who get hurt on the job as a result of a construction site owner’s negligence, or the failure of a general contractor to obtain proper safety equipment, New York Labor Law provides a remedy. New York is distinct from many other states in that it allows a construction worker to hold an employer accountable for failing to provide safety equipment that could have prevented a serious injury.

Yet construction accidents are not the only ways in which a failure to provide safety equipment may result in a construction worker’s harm. Since Governor Cuomo issued the stay-home order and required non-essential businesses to close, many construction projects were deemed essential. As such, construction workers across the city remained on the job, many without proper safety or protective equipment. Does New York Labor Law apply to coronavirus cases, or does it only apply to traumatic accidents on construction sites that result in injuries? In short, this question is one that has not yet been addressed in New York courts given how recently the pandemic began affecting New Yorkers, but it may be possible to file a claim. You should discuss your specific case with a New York construction accident attorney, but in the meantime, we want to discuss some of the ways that a general contractor could be liable under New York Labor Law for a COVID-19 infection.

New York Labor Law Section 200

Under New York Labor Law Section 200, a general contractor or a construction site manager (or others in control of the site) have a “general duty to protect [the] health and safety of employees.” The law further states that construction sites must be “constructed, equipped, arranged, operated and conducted as to provide reasonable and adequate protection to the lives, health and safety of all persons employed therein.”

The law holds general contractors accountable when machinery, equipment, and devices are in an unsafe condition, as well as in scenarios where “any area” is in a dangerous condition. The question of what constitutes a dangerous condition when it comes to coronavirus, and what protections must be taken, are not yet clear. However, if an employer fails to provide personal protective equipment, such as face masks, even after one or more construction workers tests positive for COVID-19, a construction worker who later tests positive after having close contact with an infected worker could make the argument that Section 200 makes the general contractor liable.

Section 241 of New York Labor Law Could Apply

Beyond Section 200, it is possible that a construction worker who tests positive for COVID-19 after working on a construction site with no personal protective equipment and known cases of infection could allege a violation of Section 241. Under Section 241(6) of New York Labor Law, general contractors must “provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to the persons employed therein.” This section applies to areas where construction, excavation, or demolition work is being done.

Contact a New York Construction Accident Lawyer

If you were working on a construction site and became ill, an experienced New York construction accident attorney can speak with you about your options for seeking compensation. Contact Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC to learn more.

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