A New York State bill, “Carlos’ Law”, is currently before Governor Hochul for signing, after having been passed both by the Senate and Assembly. The bill’s Sponsor Memo states that its purpose is “to protect workers from corporations and their agents that fail to comply with safety protocols. . .” and recalls that more than 400,000 workplace deaths have occurred since Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the OSH Act). The Sponsor Memo further states that only 80 of those deaths have been prosecuted, with a mere 12 convictions resulting, and penalties averaging only $1,000. Carlos’ Law is therefore aimed at reinforcing the purposes of the OSH Act by amending the Penal Law and increasing punitive measures to incent corporations and their agents to follow better safety practices and thereby reduce risks of injury or death to workers.

If Carlos’ Law becomes law:

  • A corporation found guilty of an offense involving the death or injury of a worker will no longer find shelter under the current limits on restitution that courts can order for victims. Restitution is currently limited to $15,000 for felonies and $10,000 for other offenses, with certain exceptions to those limits (including the return of the victim’s property, or the equivalent value thereof, and recovery of medical expenses actually incurred by the victim as a result of the offense committed by the defendant).
  • Additionally, fines against convicted corporations would increase to a minimum of $500,000 and a maximum of $1,000,000 for felonies, and a minimum of $300,000 and a maximum of $500,000 for certain misdemeanors. Currently, such fines are limited to $10,000 for felonies and $5,000 for certain misdemeanors.

Take away

If signed, Carlos’ Law raises the stakes for employer liability and worker safety standards in New York State. Employers should take active steps now to assess their workplace safety standards and shore up any deficiencies they may find.