New York employees have a right to report employment law violations or other unsafe conduct to a government agency or supervisor. New York employers cannot retaliate against employees when they report their employers. Retaliation can take many forms, including being fired, having wages or hours reduced, or being demoted or passed over for a promotion. A recent amendment to New York’s retaliation law protects employees.
Have You Experienced Retaliation in the Workplace? We Can Help
As an employee, you have a right to work in a safe and discrimination-free workplace. You also have a right to report your employer for engaging in unlawful behavior. If you have faced retaliation for reporting your employer, or you’re concerned that you will face retaliation in the future, you need an experienced employment attorney on your side. Reach out to the skilled employment attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP today to schedule your free consultation.
The Amendment to New York’s Retaliation Law Is Now In Effect
New York’s new amendment to New York’s retaliation law makes it easier for employees to bring retaliation claims. It also expands whistleblower protections in New York. These amendments, which went into effect on January 26, 2022, signify a shift from New York employment laws, which have historically been more favorable to employers.
Now, retaliation laws are more favorable toward employees. It is now significantly easier for an employee to bring a retaliation claim against his or her employer under New York’s Labor Law 740. Due to the amendment’s expansive language, we will probably see more retaliation lawsuits in New York. It will be up to the New York courts to decide all of the practical boundaries of these new amendments once plaintiffs begin bringing lawsuits under the amended law.
Expanded Definition of Employee
New York’s retaliation law protects employees who’ve been retaliated against for reporting their employer. In the past, employers would get around the law by claiming that the person who reported them wasn’t considered an employee under the statute. Previously, the retaliation law only applied to employees, defined as “individuals performing services for and under the control and direction of an employer for wages or other remuneration.” The amendment has expanded the definition of employee by adding two more categories of employees, namely, former employees and independent contractors.
Working as an independent contractor has become more prevalent than ever. Rideshare companies and food and grocery delivery services use independent contractors instead of employees. Now, if an independent contractor has experienced retaliation for raising conduct complaints on the job, he or she will be protected. Similarly, if a former employee was retaliated against for complaining about an employer and they have since been fired for an unrelated reason, they will still have a right to protection under the new Amendment.
Expanded Whistleblower Claims
The new amendments extend protection from retaliation to more types of employee conduct. Previously, the law only protected employees from retaliation if they acted within the scope of their duties as an employee. As amended, the law will now cover complaints and concerns by employees whether or not the complaints are within the scope of their job duty. For example, if an employee witnesses a violation of labor laws in an outside department or directed toward another employee, the employee will still be protected. Employees are now protected from retaliation whether or not they were acting within the scope of their job duties when they reported the unlawful behavior.
The Expanded Scope of Protected Whistleblower Activity
Previously employers were only prohibited from taking retaliatory action against an employee who objected to, refused to participate in, or threatened to disclose an unlawful activity, policy, or practice. The activity, policy, or practice must have presented substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety, or constitute health care fraud. The new amendments eliminate the requirement that an actual violation of law, regulation, or rule has occurred.
Currently, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees when the employee acted as a whistleblower regarding “an activity that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of law, rule or regulation or that the employee reasonably believes poses a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety.” Additionally, whistleblowers previously only had one year to bring their claims. Now, the statute of limitations will be increased to two years. Employers can no longer defend themselves by claiming that an actual legal violation hasn’t occurred.
The amendments also expanded the definition of a law, rule, or regulation. Now, this phrase includes all local, state, and federal executive orders, judicial rulings are orders and administrative decisions. Likewise, employers cannot claim that they were making a good faith effort to follow the law. As long as the employee reasonably believes that the employer violated a law, rule, or regulation or that the action posed a substantial danger, they are protected from retaliation.
More Damages Available for Whistleblowers
Under the previous version of Labor Law Section 740, the plaintiff employee could only seek injunctive relief. Injunctive relief can include the following:
- reinstatement to the same or equivalent position as the employee held before the retaliatory action
- reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights
- compensation for lost payments and benefits, and
- employer payment of attorneys’ fees and costs
Under the new amendments, plaintiff employees are entitled to all of these forms of relief as well as jury trials, the recovery of front pay, and civil and punitive damages. As a result, if the plaintiff can prove that the employer intentionally violated New York labor laws, he or she can recover additional punitive damages against the employer.
Contact a New York Retaliation Attorney Today
If you have experienced retaliation for reporting your employer, it’s crucial that you understand your rights. Recent amendments to New York’s retaliation law work in favor of employees who have been retaliated against. As a result, it’s easier for employees to obtain compensation and restitution for the retaliation they’ve endured. Don’t delay. Contact the experienced employment attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.