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Were You Injured while Cleaning on the Job?

On October 10, 2013 the New York Court of Appeals – New York State’s highest court – issued a decision discussing key components of New York Labor Law § 240(1). Specifically, the court was asked to interpret the meaning of “cleaning” under Labor Law § 240(1), and what types of activities will be considered “cleaning” under the statute.

In that case, the Plaintiff, Mr. Soto, was an employee of a commercial cleaning company hired to provide cleaning services for a retail store. Mr. Soto was injured when he fell from a four-foot-tall ladder while dusting a six foot high display shelf. The court decided that Mr. Soto was not engaged in the type of “cleaning” that would be covered by Labor Law § 240(1).

Labor Law § 240(1) imposes a nondelegable duty and absolute liability upon owners and contractors for failing to provide safety devices necessary for workers subject to elevation-related risks in circumstances specified by the statute. To recover, the worker must have been engaged in a covered activity – which includes “the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning, or pointing of a building or structure.”

The Court has applied Labor Law § 240(1) to various kinds of commercial cleaning projects, however, they reject the notion that Labor Law § 240(1) should cover all cleaning that occurs in a commercial setting, no matter how mundane.

The Court provides several factors to help determine whether the statute applies to a particular on the job accident. An activity cannot be characterized as “cleaning” under the statute, if the task:

  1. Is routine, in the sense that it is the type of job that occurs on a daily, weekly or other relatively-frequent and recurring basis as part of the ordinary maintenance and care of commercial premises;
  2. requires neither specialized equipment or expertise, nor the unusual deployment of labor;
  3. generally involves insignificant elevation risks comparable to those inherent in typical domestic or household cleaning; and
  4. in light of the core purpose of Labor Law § 240(1) to protect construction workers, is unrelated to any ongoing construction, renovation, painting, alteration or repair project.

The presence or absence of any one factor is not determinative of the outcome of a worker’s case. It takes a skilled attorney to decipher the complex language of Labor Law § 240(1) and to determine whether the law applies to a particular accident. The attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP, have the experience necessary to successfully prosecute claims under Labor Law § 240(1).

If you have suffered an injury on the job – whether it occurred while cleaning or performing a different activity – we invite you to contact Hach & Rose. We have the experience, results, resources, reputation and a commitment to our clients to provide the best legal representation possible.

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