No one likes having their wrongdoing reported to someone who can put a stop to it. People who have been getting away with illegal and unethical actions do not appreciate it when someone notifies regulators, police, or someone else in a position of authority of their misdeeds. In fact, if you break the silence about someone’s wrongdoing, they will probably call you a tattletale or a snitch, even if you were knowingly taking a risk by revealing the unethical or unlawful actions. If you know that your employer is doing something illegal, unethical, or dangerous, deciding to report the misconduct to authorities can be intimidating. You might feel morally conflicted about whether anything will get better if you speak up or if you will just be putting yourself at risk of losing the job that enables you to support your family. On a federal level, filing a whistleblower claim is a protected activity, which means that it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for doing it. The New York City whistleblower claims lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you exercise your rights at every stage of filing a whistleblower claim.
What Is a Whistleblower?
A whistleblower is someone who reports misconduct that they witness at their place of employment. The following are examples of employer misconduct:
- Safety hazards in the workplace
- Knowingly selling unsafe or defective products
- Tax evasion
- Paying or receiving bribes
- Making employees work in exploitative conditions (such as with very long hours for low pay or an environment where harassment of workers is widespread) and threatening retaliation if they complain about it
- Defrauding customers, insurance companies, or federally funded programs such as Medicare and Medicaid
Almost any action by your employer that breaks the law, endangers people, or causes preventable harm is misconduct. Thus, Section 740 of the New York Labor Law, the section dealing with whistleblower action, defines misconduct as any action that breaks a federal, state, or local law, regulation, or rule.
A whistleblower action is when an employee reports or threatens to report the misconduct to a supervisor or public body. A public body is a federal, state, or local government entity, including but not limited to the Internal Revenue Service, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Who Has the Right to Act as a Whistleblower in New York City?
All employees who reasonably believe that the actions they have witnessed by their employers constitute a violation of a federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation have the right to report this misconduct. An amendment to section 740 went into effect on January 26, 2022. Under the current version of the law, current employees, former employees, and independent contractors all have the right to engage in whistleblower actions. Previously, employees whose job duties inherently involve reporting misconduct, such as compliance officers, were exempt from whistleblower protections, but the new version of the law offers protection to them, to. The statute of limitations for filing a whistleblower claim is two years from the date that the misconduct occurred. If you have since left your job, but less than two years have passed since you witnessed the misconduct, you still have time to file a whistleblower claim. The New York City whistleblowers claims lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you begin the process.
Notifying Your Employer Before Filing a Whistleblower Claim in NYC
Most of the time, the law requires you to notify your employer of your intention to report the misconduct to a public body before you report the misconduct to regulators outside of your workplace. Not only is it against the law for employers to retaliate against employees who have reported employer misconduct to public bodies, it is also illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who have notified their employers of their intent to escalate the whistleblower actions.
The law allows for certain circumstances where the employee has the right to bypass the step of notifying the employer and move straight to the stage of reporting the misconduct to the public body. These are situations where the employee reasonably believes that notifying the employer would create a substantial risk of harm, such as the following:
- The employer’s conduct is so dangerous that a delay in notifying public bodies would constitute a threat to public health and safety
- The employer is likely to destroy evidence if they know that the employer plans to file a whistleblower claim that would launch an investigation
- The employer reasonably believes that the employer knows about the misconduct and does not intend to stop it
- The employer reasonably fears that notifying the employer would endanger the employee’s physical safety or that of a minor
If you are not sure whether it is legal to bypass the employer notification step of your whistleblower claim, the New York City whistleblower claims lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you decide.
Whistleblower Actions and Employer Retaliation in New York City
The new version of the New York whistleblower law protects employees who engage in whistleblower actions from all kinds of retaliatory acts from their employers, including revocation of the employee’s immigration status. It previously only included termination of employment, suspension, and demotion.
Remember that employer retaliation is against the law when an employee engages in any kind of protected activity, not just filing a whistleblower claim. Other examples of protected activities include filing a discrimination complaint or workers’ compensation claim, requesting accommodations for a disability, or taking an unpaid FMLA leave or paid family leave (PFL).
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Whistleblower Claims in New York City
The New York City employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you exercise the rights and protections afforded to employees, former employees, and independent contractors under the current version of the New York whistleblower protection law. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in New York, New York to set up a consultation.