New York Protection for Whistleblowers

Employment Law News | July 2, 2022

As an employee, you have the right to report health and safety violations without fear of retaliation from your employer. Many states have whistleblower laws in place to protect employees—including New York.

In 2022, New York expanded protections for whistleblowers across the state. If you want to report an act of wrongdoing at your workplace, it is important to be aware of your rights and these new safeguards.

What Is a Whistleblower?

Whistleblowers are individuals who report illicit or unsafe activity within their organizations to a governing authority. They are essential to protecting workplaces’ health and safety.

However, many companies seek to punish whistleblowers for their actions. For example, these employers may fire whistleblowers, cut their pay or working hours, or demote them to another position. This is known as retaliation.

Under federal and state laws, however, retaliating against an employee for engaging in protected whistleblower activity is illegal. Employers can face significant consequences for whistleblower retaliation—on top of those that they face for the reported violation.

Changes to New York Whistleblower Law

New York Labor Law Section 740 is New York’s whistleblower law. Like the federal statute, this piece of legislation protects New York employees from retaliation for engaging in protected whistleblower activity. Recent changes have dramatically expanded the scope of this law.

Prior to the expansion, these protections were only provided to employees who reported healthcare fraud or substantial and specific dangers to public health and safety. Additionally, the employee must have provided his or her employer with a reasonable opportunity to correct the violation before submitting a report.

On January 26, 2022, several changes were made to New York’s whistleblower law:

  • Current and former employees as well as independent contractors now have whistleblower protections.
  • The statute of limitations for filing retaliation claims increased from one to two years.
  • Employers must post notice of employees’ whistleblower rights conspicuously in a well-lit, accessible location.
  • Employees who file a retaliation claim are entitled to a jury trial and entitled to recover front pay, punitive damages, and up to $10,000 in civil penalties.
  • More protected activities are covered by the law, and the definition of retaliatory action has been expanded.

What Is a Protected Action Under New York Law?

One of the most critical changes to New York’s whistleblower law is the expansion of protected actions. Employees now have the right to protection from retaliation when they engage in any of the following:

  • The employee discloses or threaten to disclose to a supervisor or a public body an activity or policy of the employer that the employee reasonably believes to be in violation of a law, rule, or regulation, or poses a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
  • The employee provides information to or testifies before a public body that is investigating or conducting a hearing or inquiry into the employer.
  • The employee objects to or refuses to participate in any of these activities, policies, or practices.

What Is Retaliatory Action Under New York Law?

The new law has also expanded its definition of retaliatory action. Now, any adverse action that would impact an employee’s current or future employment may be grounds for a retaliation claim.

If your employer illegally retaliated against you for engaging in a protected activity, you may be eligible for a retaliation claim. In these situations, you need an attorney on your side who can protect your rights. As soon as possible following the retaliation, contact a New York employment attorney to discuss your next steps.