“I see what you’re doing there …”

Anti-Retaliation Protections of New York’s Whistleblower Laws Expanded

Worker complaints of retaliation are the single-largest segment of employment discrimination claims in the United States. Retaliation occurs in all businesses and at all levels of authority and seniority, from the quick-firing of a production worker for asking to be paid a legal wage, to the “easing out” of an executive manager for objecting to questionable accounting

Simply stated, retaliation is the violation that occurs when a person is punished for asserting some other protected right. 

The “other protected right” can be almost anything covered by the law – wages and hours, anti-discrimination and harassment, whistleblowing, health and safety, financial reporting, etc.

Because retaliation is in response to people asserting these “other protected rights,” the laws against retaliation are not found in just one statute; they may actually be found in the myriad of federal, state, and local laws covering everything from production line safety to stock option valuation.

As whistleblower and anti-retaliation experts, the professionals at Pelton Graham work every day to stay abreast of the developing law. 

New York has recently significantly strengthened the anti-retaliation provisions of its whistleblower laws. Per the legislative intent, “… this bill will act as a deterrent to employers who might otherwise engage in illegal activity, will protect the public from such wrongdoing, and will ensure that the honest and law-abiding employees who have the courage to reveal illegal activities are protected against retaliation by their employers.”

New York state law previously allowed claims of unlawful retaliation only by workers who suffered adverse job actions due to raising complaints only about “substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety,” or “health care fraud.” As one can imagine, this narrow coverage left a lot of room for retaliation against whistleblowers that was not prohibited.   

The amendments to New York Labor Law 740 prohibit employers from retaliating against any employee or independent contractor because they:

  1. disclose, or threaten to disclose to a supervisor or a public body any activity of the employer that they reasonably believe is in violation of law or that they reasonably believe pose a danger to the public health or safety:
  2. provide information to any public body investigating such activity by the employer; or
  3. object to, or refuse to participate in any such objectionable activity.

The amendments added other important employee protections such as a two-year statute of limitations, posting of notices, and the right to a jury trial. 

New York’s expansion of Labor Law 740 protects and encourages employees who speak out about illegality in the workplace. California also recently moved to protect whistleblowers with the  “Silenced No More Act,” which prohibits employers from using non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements to stop employees from freely discussing harassment, retaliation, and discrimination.

Whistleblowers can be awarded anywhere between 15% and 30% in False Claims Act cases, depending upon a number of circumstances including the relator’s level of participation and whether the government chooses to intervene in the action. These relator rewards often exceed millions when they lead to successful enforcement actions.

Pelton Graham monitors developments like these around the United States in order to anticipate and identify new issues and to be ready to act on behalf of our clients. 

At Pelton Graham, we get results – we don’t take every case, but if we take yours, we promise we’ll do our very best to get you the best possible result.

If you have any questions regarding your rights as an employee, applicant, independent contractor, or want to know anything related to the workplace, you can contact us for a no-obligation, no-cost consultation by telephone, video conference, or in-person at our nearest office.