New York’s Penal Law has been amended under new legislation, known as Carlos’ Law, to increase penalties for criminal corporate liability for the death or injury of an employee.
Governor Kathy Hochul signed the legislation Dec. 23, raising the fine for felonies or misdemeanors relating to an employee’s death or serious physical injury up to $500,000.
Named after construction worker killed on the job
The state legislature passed Carlos’ Law on Dec. 12. This bill, originally introduced in 2017, was named after Carlos Moncayo, a 22-year-old construction worker “who was killed in the workplace due to his employers ignoring repeated warnings of dangerous conditions” he was placed in.
Carlos’ Law will take effect 30 days after being signed by Governor Hochul.
Created because OSH Act prosecutions are rare
This measure, according to the bill’s sponsors, is necessary to address the fact that prosecutions under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act are rare, according to law firm Littler Mendelson. The sponsors also felt that fines under that act haven’t done enough to encourage employers to take steps to ensure safer working environments.
The new law relates to the death or injury of a worker and will:
- impose criminal liability on a corporation when the conduct constituting the offense is committed by an agent of the corporation while acting within the scope of employment
- require a court to set restitution or reparations when a corporation is found guilty of such an offense
- impose a fine of not less than $500,000 or more than $1 million when a corporation is convicted of a felony offense, and
- impose a fine of not less than $300,000 or more than $500,000 when a corporation is convicted of a misdemeanor offense.
Substantial increase in penalties
This is a substantial increase in penalties as the minimum “penalty for a misdemeanor associated with a workplace death or injury before Carlos’ Law was $5,000, and the maximum penalty was $10,000.”
The law was prompted by incidents in the construction industry, but there is no language limiting it to a single industry.
Another thing to consider is that Carlos’ Law applies to all injuries, not just serious physical injuries, and that fines stemming from this law would be separate from those imposed by OSHA or other local agencies.