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New York State Department of Labor Expands Whistleblower Protection Law

Labor Law

New York has exacted legislation that significantly expands the whistleblower protections under New York Labor Law §740. The expanded law bolsters protections for private-sector workers alleging retaliation for blowing the whistle in a variety of ways, including (1) adding “former employees” and “independent contractors” to those permitted to bring whistleblower claims (2) removing the previous requirement that there be an actual violation of law and instead providing protection where a covered individual reasonably believes the employer’s activity is a violation of law, rule, regulation or “poses a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety” and (3) providing that covered individuals need only make a “good faith effort” to notify their employer of violations before disclosing such violations to a public body, whereas before actual notice to the employer was required. The amended law also expands the remedies potentially available to whistleblowers, such as providing for front pay, a civil penalty and, where the violation is willful or wanton, punitive damages. Previously, relief was limited to an injunction, reinstatement, compensation for lost wages and benefits, and/or costs and attorney's fees. The new law also extends the statute of limitations on bringing claims, and affords whistleblowers a right to a jury trial.

The expanded law requires that employers post a notice informing employees of their protections, rights and obligations under the law. The notice must be posted conspicuously in easily accessible and well-lighted places customarily frequented by employees and applicants for employment.

Call Schwartz Perry & Heller if you would like to discuss your protections and obligations under the law, and to see if we can help you stand up for your rights.