As of January 26, 2022, some new, enhanced whistleblower protections went into effect in the state of New York.
The changes to the law were as follows:
- The state change the definition of an “employee” in Labor Law 740 to include former employees and independent contractors.
- The state extended the statute of limitations from one to two years.
- The state added additional entitlements for plaintiffs. They already had the right to seek reinstatement, back pay, attorney’s fees and injunctive relief, and now they also are entitled to jury trials and recovery of punitive damages and front pay.
- The revisions make it so retaliatory actions are no longer limited to any actual adverse employment actions taken by the employer (termination, suspension, demotion, reassignment) but now include any “actions or threats to take such action that would adversely impact a former employee’s current or future employment.”
- The law changes and expands what constitutes protected whistleblower activity. In the old rules, employees were engaged in protected activity when they disclosed or threatened to disclose an activity, practice or policy of an employer that violated a law, regulation or rule in such a manner that it posed a substantial danger to public health or safety or constituted healthcare fraud. Now, employees are engaged in protected activity if they “reasonably believe” the employer is acting in violation of those laws or regulations.
- The state adds several exceptions to the requirement that an employee first report the violation to their supervisor internally to allow the employer a chance to correct the wrongdoing. One example is if an employee reasonably believes the supervisor is already aware of the policy and will not correct it.
- The state now requires New York employers to post notices informing employees of their protections, rights and obligations under revised whistleblower laws.
Employers should familiarize themselves with all of these changes and take any internal actions necessary to accommodate them. Every employer must have strong reporting and anti-retaliation policies to prevent whistleblower retaliation from becoming an issue, and create a positive and open company culture.
For more information about the whistleblower protections available in your area, contact an experienced whistleblower lawyer at Kardell Law Group.