New York Expands Protections for Employees who Report Alleged Workplace Violations

Date   Feb 14, 2022

On January 26, 2022, New York’s amended whistleblower law went into effect. The law, Section 740 of the New York Labor Law, significantly expands whistleblower protections in the state. The law provides employees, former employees, and independent contractors a much wider range of claims to pursue against companies.

The amended law prohibits an employer from taking a retaliatory action against an employee who discloses or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or public body an activity, policy, or practice of the employer that:

(i) The employee reasonably believes is in violation of any law, rule, or regulation; or

(ii) The employee reasonably believes poses a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety.

The definition of “employee” includes former employees, without any specific limitation in time, and independent contractors. The law’s legislative history states that by including former employees, whistleblowers will be protected from continued harm by former employers in their current or future employment prospects, such as blacklisting employees from an industry.

Moreover, the law expands the definition of “retaliatory action.” The definition in the law includes actions or threats to take actions that would discriminate against an employee or former employee, or would adversely affect a former employee’s current or future employment. 

Among other things, the law also includes a right to a jury trial (previously, Section 740 claims were subject to bench trials), civil penalties, and punitive damages.

The law requires employers to post a notice informing employees of their protections, rights, and obligations under the law (click here for the notice). The notice must be posted conspicuously in easily accessible and well-lighted places often frequented by employees and job applicants. The law is unclear about how employers can satisfy the posting requirement when the only employees they have in New York are remote employees. 

If you have any questions regarding the new law or other labor or employment issues impacting employers in New York, please contact the authors of this Alert, Sami, Phil Of course, you can also contact the FordHarrison attorney with whom you usually work.