New York’s Notorious Scaffold Law

I am often asked to point out a law or regulation that is indicative of New York’s dubious anti-business reputation.  The answer can be, arguably I grant it, the notorious “Scaffold Law”.  So what is it you ask?

“Scaffold law” or Labor Law Section 240/241 states that contractors, employers and property owners are held absolutely liable for “elevation-related injuries.” In New York, unlike any other state, when an injured worker sues, the employer is automatically liable, even if the injured worker was entirely at fault. Contrary to the most basic principles of justice and fairness, the employer has little access to due process.

So let me describe this a little simpler.  If you were, or perhaps are an employer, and one of your employees was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and suffered an elevated-related injury, you the employer are strictly liable for your employee’s behavior.  Not in one instance is the employee’s behavior taken into consideration.  And this should come as no surprise, New York is the only state in the nation that has a strict liability standard.

Today, perhaps New York takes it’s first baby steps to sensibly reforming the “scaffold law”.  I, and other business leaders in New York, joined Senator Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma) at a press conference as he introduced legislation that would put a comparative negligence standard in place.  This would provide the opportunity for employers to defend themselves in instances of employee misconduct or disobedience.  A tremendous important first step to reigning in substantial liability insurance costs that employers in New York face.

Reforming “scaffold law” should be a serious priority of both the legislature and Governor Cuomo as they all continue to discuss the need to “open New York for business” and provide substantial mandate relief for our communities, business owners and taxpayers.

Hopefully, today is the first step toward victory on this critical issue.





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About Mike Durant

Mike Durant was named New York State Director of NFIB in May 2011. Prior to joining NFIB as the Assistant State Director in May 2010, Durant began his career in the New York Senate working in the Office of Member Services. From there, he served in a number of positions during former New York Governor George E. Pataki’s administration. As a Research Specialist in the New York State Office of Demographic Policy, Mike was responsible for drafting a redistricting proposal for Governor Pataki. In addition, Mike served as a Research Specialist for the Empire State Development Corporation, as well as the Associate Commissioner of Human Resource Management with the New York Department of Labor. Durant also spent four years working at the Questar III BOCES as a specialist focusing on the complex formulas that drive aid to school districts across the state while also taking a lead role in the state legislative/budget process as it related to education policy. These past positions have given Mike a deep understanding of the complex political economics of the State of New York. Active in the community, Durant has served on a number of boards in both the village of Ballston Spa and Town of Milton. Durant received his bachelor’s degree from Siena College in Loudonville, New York and resides in Ballston Spa with his wife and two children.
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