New York Labor Law § 740 was amended and enacted on January 26, 2022. It significantly strengthens and expands the reach of worker protections in the private sector who allege retaliation for various actions, including whistleblowing.
The new law includes the following changes:
- The new law adds former employees and independent contractors to the list of workers permitted to bring a whistleblower claim.
- It protects whistleblowers who reasonably believe there were illegal actions that violate regulations or rules or pose a substantial risk to the public. It removes the requirement that existing laws were broken or there was a risk of harm to the general public.
- It requires a good faith effort to notify the employer of violations before notifying the appropriate regulating or government authorities. Whistleblowers no longer need to officially inform the employer of the violation before bringing claims officially.
- The new law extends the statute of limitations for bringing claims from one year to two.
- It expands the potential remedies available to the whistleblower to include front pay, civil penalty and (if the violation was malicious or willful) punitive damages.
- It affords whistleblowers the right to a jury trial rather than being forced into arbitration.
These amendments remove a discrepancy between private and public employees, who already enjoyed these protections. Employers must post notice of these changes in a conspicuous location in the workplace.
Employers may see an upsurge in workers bringing claims
Employers in New York are advised to update their internal procedures in responding to and investigating complaints and related matters. It is also advisable to train supervisors on the updated law and how to best respond to reports of violations. Businesses may also need to prepare for former employees (including contractors) to bring a new claim.