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Disrupting New York’s Labor Law (NY)

September 17, 2020

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<p style="text-align: justify;">Labor Law 240, often referred to as the Scaffold Law, was passed in 1885 to enforce various safety protocols to prevent slips and falls for construction workers working at heights. Court rulings interpreting the Scaffold Law imposed little responsibility on injured employees, making it difficult for employers to cite comparative negligence to avoid liability.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Scaffold law, which creates an absolute liability standard, holds contractors and building owners responsible for gravity-related accidents on construction sites, regardless of who was culpable. Small businesses and taxpayers are left holding the bag, while trial lawyers capitalize on an archaic law.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Most recently in Albany, Congressman Chris Jacobs representing the 27th District of New York, announced the introduction of the Infrastructure Expansion Act (H.R. 8222), where he stated that “The Scaffold Law is an outdated 19th Century law that burdens our taxpayers and hurts our ability to make New York more competitive for investment and reduction of taxpayer’s cost. The Infrastructure Expansion Act that Rep. Jacobs introduced imposes a comparative negligence liability standard, pre-empting the Scaffold Law on all projects receiving federal funding. Under the newly proposed legislation, gravity related accidents would be investigated to determine blame in the cause of the injury, meaning businesses would no longer be forced to carry excessive insurance plans, and taxpayer are safeguarded from wasteful spending.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Congressman, Tom Reed, representing the 23rd District of New York, opined on the matter following Jacobs’ public introduction of the bill, where he stated, “By preempting the Law, we can ensure federal construction projects and communities across New York are no longer unfairly burdened by this harmful law. We will continue to take steps to fight back against the impractical legislation coming out of Albany and boost economic development opportunities throughout the estate.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">A complete overhaul of infamous labor laws is likely wishful thinking in light of Albany’s notorious plaintiff’s lawyer lobbying groups, but the introduction of Jacob’s bill is probably a step in the right direction. Over the past years, the strict liability standard has placed a heavy burden on developers, contractors, insurers and taxpayers, resulting in ubiquitous outcries throughout the industry. Notwithstanding whether or not the proposed bill actually does pass, it would only be naive for plaintiff’s attorneys not to acknowledge recent trends that the pendulum is beginning to swing in favor of defendants on New York Labor Law claims.</p>
Thanks to James Papadakis for his contribution to this post. Please contact <a href="mailto:Haquino@wcmlaw.com">Heather Aquino</a> with any questions.

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