Everyone wants to believe their employer will respect their decision to do the right thing, and hopefully believes they want to encourage compliance with federal, state, and local laws. It’s also generally agreed society is best served when safety, environmental, financial, and legal requirements are followed. Unfortunately, however, it’s common to find employers willing to punish their workers for reporting violations they witness on the job or refusing to participate in illegal activities. To combat this, both New York and the federal government have whistleblower laws to protect employees from retaliation when they come forward. Here is a general overview of New York’s whistleblower protections and laws.
New York’s Whistleblower Law
Unlike many states, New York’s laws protect both public and private employees (as opposed to simply public employees). New York also considers employer retaliation a crime. New York’s Labor Code prohibits employers from:
- Demoting, or
- Taking other adverse employment action
if an employee discloses or threatens to disclose, provides information or testifies, or objects to or refuses to participate in an action or activity that violates a law, rule, or regulation or otherwise presents a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. Translation: if you think your employer is asking you to do something illegal or doing something illegal and you are worried you will get fired for saying something, there are legal protections in place for you.
Is an Employer Automatically Liable for Whistleblower Violations?
Though there are broad restrictions on an employer’s ability to retaliate against their employee, the restriction on taking adverse action isn’t absolute. The employee has a duty to report the violation to their supervisor first and allow the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct. Otherwise New York’s whistleblower protections do not usually apply.
What Penalties Will Employers Face?
Employers who violate whistleblower laws in New York can be responsible to their employee in a number of ways. Within a year of the violation, an employee can file a civil action. Successful claimants may receive an injunction prohibiting their employer from continuing the retaliatory or adverse action, reinstatement, back pay, an award of full fringe benefits and seniority rights, and reasonable court costs and attorney’s fees.
New York Employment LawyerEmployees in New York have a number of rights at work, including the ability to say and do the right thing when their employer is engaging in a hazardous or illegal activity. If you feel your rights have been violated by your employer, it’s important to fight for the protections you deserve and hold your employer accountable. To make sure you put your best foot forward with your claim, contact the experienced employment lawyers at MOWK Law to avoid legal pitfalls. Contact us today to let us review your case, answer your questions, and make sure you don’t suffer inappropriate adverse consequences for taking action.