A whistleblower is a person who blows the whistle on or exposes illegal activity within a public, private, or governmental organization. The illegal activity could include fraud, misuse of taxpayer money, elicit activity, unsafe practices, or other types of illegal actions. Often, a whistleblower is an organization employee who has enough information to expose the company to internal or external authorities, such as law enforcement officers or agents.
Fighting for the Rights of New York Whistleblowers
If you are experiencing pressure from your employer regarding whistleblowing, it is crucial that you understand your rights. Whether you are considering coming forward or you have already done so and are worried about retaliation, HKM Employment Attorneys is here to help. We take whistle-blowing cases seriously and do everything in our power to ensure that whistleblowers in New York are treated fairly by their employers. After evaluating your case, we will help you understand your rights and help you protect yourself from any potential retaliation.
Federal Laws Protecting Whistleblowers
Multiple federal laws protect whistleblowers. The Dodd-Frank act allows whistleblowers to receive up to 30% of the proceeds of the illegal settlements awarded to the federal government. This law protects whistleblowers who provide information related to securities fraud to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) Contains whistleblower protection provisions for employees who work at publicly traded companies who provide information on, complaints, or assistance investigations relating to the following:
- Wire fraud
- Bank fraud
- Securities fraud
- Mail fraud
- Any other SEC rule or regulation
- Any other shareholder or federal fraud
The Fair Labor Standards Act
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protects employees who complain to their employers about wage and hour violations. Wage and hour violations include not being paid the minimum wage, illegal pay deductions, missed paychecks, and not getting paid overtime. When an employee sufficiently engages in protected conduct by complaining to a supervisor or the human resources department, they will receive protection under the fair labor standards act. Pursuing a formal lawsuit isn’t necessary to obtain protections under the law.
New York State Whistleblower Law
In addition to federal whistleblower laws, New York has a law called the New York False Claims Act. This law allows eligible whistleblowers to file “qui tam” lawsuits against those who engage in illegal activity and defraud the state of New York. Many whistleblower cases involve fraud, violation of income tax laws, and other white color crimes. The law also offers eligible whistleblowers job protection and rewards for coming forward.
Specifically, the New York False Claims Act imposes liability on those who knowingly present false or fraudulent claims for payment to the state or local government, misappropriate local or state government property, or deceptively avoid finding obligations to pay the state or local government.
The law also covers tax law violations, including submission of a fraudulent return, as long as the Violator has an income over 1 million and the harm to the state exceeds $350,000. The court overseeing the case has the authority to order a defendant to pay up to three times the actual harm to the state. They can also be required to pay consequential damages and civil fines for each violation of the New York False Claims Act.
Rewards for Whistleblowers Under New York’s False Claims Act
Whistleblowers in New York who file a successful claim can receive between 15% and 25% of any recovery the state makes. if the state does not intervene and The Whistleblower proceeds with the case, the whistleblower may receive between 25% and 30% of the recovery. If the whistleblower plant or initiated the fraud, or the action is based on the information disclosed in public hearings or the media, the core can lower the award.
Whistleblower Protections Under the New York False Claims Act
The New York False Claims Act protects whistleblowers who suffer employment retaliation due to their whistleblowing activity. protections include reinstatement of full fringe employment benefits and seniority rights, interest on the back pay, twice the amount of back pay, and compensation for any special damages sustained due to the retaliation.
When a whistleblower is successful, the defendant must also pay litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees. If you are considering acting as a whistleblower, you have 10 years from the violation you are reporting to file a claim.
What is Considered Retaliation for Being a Whistleblower?
Many whistleblowers are understandably concerned about coming forward and filing a complaint against their employees because they are worried about being fired. Retaliation against whistleblowers has been common and can take several forms. In addition to being fired, employers can take many different types of adverse actions, including the following:
- Demoting the employee
- Creating a hostile work environment
- Issuing negative work evaluations that are not justified by the employee’s conduct or performance
- Allowing a hostile work environment to persist
- Assigning an employee to a less desirable job
- Reducing the employee’s hours without a valid reason
- Decreasing the employee’s hourly pay rate or salary rate without any justification
- Ignoring or refusing to act upon a valid complaint made by the employee
- Refusing to give the employee a promotion even though they are the best choice for the position
If you have experienced any of these situations or any other type of retaliation, it is crucial that you reach out to an attorney as soon as possible.
Contact a New Paltz, New York Whistleblower Attorney
Are you considering coming forward as a whistleblower and reporting the illicit activity of your employer? Have you already done so and are worried about your employer firing you? Working with an attorney can help you protect yourself and your rights.
HKM Employment Attorneys are prepared to help you understand your legal options and advocate for you throughout the process. We understand how valuable whistleblowers are to holding companies who break the law accountable. We also understand how difficult it can be for whistleblowers to come forward. Contact the New Paltz, New York attorneys at HKM Employment Attorneys to schedule an initial consultation.