The whistleblowing statutes in New York are very limited in scope and provide very little protection for employees. The Harman Firm strongly supports proposed bills S3862 and A5696, which would close critical loopholes in New York’s existing Whistleblower Protection Statute, Labor Law Section 740, and ensure that employees who speak out about illegal business conduct will receive the protections they deserve. Presently, attorneys and other employee advocates are forced to advise clients who speak up about workplace health and safety violations that they might not be able to go to court to get their job back—without legal protection few workers will complain about what are often serious concerns about the health and safety of others.
Similarly, workers who complain that their employer is committing fraud or other types of illegal activity also have no legal protections if their employment is terminated as a result of their complaints. For example, if your employer asked you to engage in an illegal activity, you can legally get fired in New York for refusing to participate. Likewise, it is not generally illegal in New York to terminate the employment of a worker who raises serious issues of financial fraud, such as tax fraud or defrauding a customer. Under New York’s existing whistleblower statute, such employees receive no meaningful protection: if they speak out about employer abuse, they are likely to face retaliation and probably termination.
Also, shockingly, if an employee sues in New York under the present whistleblower statute, that employee waives her right to bring any other legal claim against her employer, including any type of discrimination claims. As a result, few claims are ever filed under the present statute; it seems to do more harm than it does good.
We believe New York must update its whistleblower statute. Broad protection is necessary for employees who courageously speak out about illegal employer conduct. Proposed legislation S3862/A5696 provides critical, common-sense reforms to New York’s whistleblower law, including: Protecting workers who report any type of legal violation, not just violations that pose a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety, which is all the protection that is presently available.
If you believe you are the victim of illegal workplace conduct, please reach out to us through our website.