Are Whistleblowers Protected in the State of New York?
Yes. New York has its own state law that protects “whistleblowers”, or persons who report the fraudulent conduct of an employer. It may be found in §740 of the New York Labor laws.
This law protects both public and private employees from retaliation by their employer for providing information regarding their employee’s illegal actions. For example, employers may not fire or otherwise take adverse action against informants.
Under §740, the employee can file in civil court within one year of the alleged retaliation incident. They may be able to recover back pay, get reinstated to their job if they were fired, and be reimbursed for attorney’s costs. However, before they can file suit, employees must first report to their employers and allow them a reasonable amount of time to make corrections.
I’ve recently heard of a newer “New York Whistleblower Protection Law”. What is this?
In the spring of 2002, New York’s governor signed a new law providing health care employees with increased whistleblower protections. It may be found at §741 of the New York Labor Law.
The new law provides broad protection to employees of health care providing organizations such as nursing homes, hospitals, and mental health agencies. §741 protects employees who report actions or policies that constitute improper or inadequate patient care.
Under §741, employers in the health care industry are also prohibited from retaliating against their employees for reporting violations of health care standards.
This new law grew out of a response to increased pressure by those in the health care industry who were concerned about health care standards. The law reflects a current trend in the area of whistleblower law to provide means for employees to report their observations of low health care standards.
Are there any Limitations on the New York Whistleblower Law?
Yes, the employee protections do not apply unless the informant first reports their concerns to their supervisor. They must also first give the employer a reasonable amount of time to make corrections or adjustments.
However, these limitations do not apply to circumstances where improper health care will result in an immediate threat or emergency to a particular patient or to the general. The employee is also not required to report with their supervisor or employer if they believe that such reporting will not result in any change to company policies or procedures.
What are the Consequences if an Employer Violates the New Law?
The New York Whistleblower Protection allows health care workers to sue their employees if they retaliate against them for making a report. Again, the employee needs to report to their employee first and allow them time for corrections before filing a lawsuit.
This is different from Federal whistleblower laws such as Federal False Claims Act. Federal laws usually require the employee to file with an administrative agency such as OSHA or EEOC before they can file a lawsuit.
In addition, the court may impose penalties of up to $10,000 if they find that the health care employer acted in bad faith when retaliating. These fines will be placed in a New York quality of health care patient fund.
Should I Contact a Lawyer if I have a Whistleblower Claim?
If you feel that you are involved in a whistleblower case in the state of New York, you may wish to contact a New York whistleblower lawyer early even before filing a report. An attorney can help you prepare your information and arguments. You should also take the following actions:
Make detailed accounts of any instances of misconduct by your employer. Include names, dates, and descriptions of their illegal or questionable practices
Create similar accounts if the employee retaliated against you for making a report. For example, if you have lost wages, include your timesheet and wage levels.
If you work in the health care industry, be prepared to explain why your employer’s actions did not conform to proper health care standards
You may wish to contact OSHA or EEOC to see what your options are under federal law