New York employees can be fired for no reason or any reason under the at-will employment doctrine. However, there are exceptions. One exception is when an employee is fired in retaliation for his or her whistleblowing. Various federal and state laws prohibit retaliation against employees who are whistleblowers. Sometimes a private contract or collective bargaining agreement can protect employees from specific types of retaliation. If you have a whistleblower claim against an employer in New York City or Long Island, you should consult our New York City whistleblower lawyers.Whistleblower Claims Under State Law
There are New York statutory protections for specific whistleblowing activities. There are general whistleblower protection statutes. There is also a whistleblower protection statute for health care employees.
Under the general whistleblower protection law, section 215 of the New York Labor Law, you cannot be terminated or subjected to discrimination in retaliation for making a complaint, initiating a proceeding, or testifying in connection with violations of the New York Labor Law. You also cannot be terminated or penalized for disclosing an employer’s illegal activities, policies, or practices to a supervisor or a public body. If you decide to report a violation to a public body, you are supposed to first let your supervisor know about the violation and allow your employer a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem. You also have protection for testifying during the course of an investigation or other inquiry into practices, policies, or activities that pose substantial and particular dangers to public safety and health. In contrast to federal laws, if you believe that a violation has happened and you were wrong, you are not protected, even if your belief was reasonable and in good faith.
Under New York Labor Law section 740, remedies that a whistleblower attorney in New York City can help you pursue include lost wages, lost benefits, and reinstatement to the same position with the same benefits.Health Care Whistleblowers
If you are a health care employee in New York, you will get similar protections to those provided under general whistleblower protection laws regarding public health or safety threats. Under New York Labor Law § 741, you are not to be terminated or subjected to retaliation for disclosing a policy or practice that you think involved inappropriate quality of patient care. You can make this disclosure either to your supervisor or to a public body. You can be incorrect about what is happening, but your belief must be reasonable and in good faith. You also should not be terminated or mistreated for objecting or refusing to participate in a practice, policy, or activity that you believe should be considered inappropriate quality of patient care.
In order to be protected under this law, you will need to first give notice to your supervisor that you believe that inappropriate quality of care has been given. Your employer is supposed to have a reasonable opportunity to fix the issue, but there is an exception when improper quality of patient care poses an imminent threat to public safety or health or to the patient, and you reasonably think that telling a supervisor will not fix the problem.
There are also other state whistleblower laws related to civil service, construction, commercial goods transportation, discrimination, nonprofit corporations, nursing homes, psychological stress evaluators, schools, toxic substances, and workers’ compensation. Our New York City whistleblower attorneys can explain how these laws may apply to you.
Moreover, there are whistleblower provisions in the New York False Claims Act, which creates liability for those who present fraudulent or false claims for payment to local or state governments, misappropriate local or state government property, or deceptively avoid binding obligations to pay local or state governments. This law also covers tax law violations if the person violating the tax law has an income over $1 million, and the tax law violation has harmed the state in an amount more than $350,000.Federal Whistleblower Claims
There are also several federal whistleblower protection laws like the federal False Claims Act (FCA), the Dodd-Frank Act, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Each of these laws sets forth incentives for whistleblowing. For example, you can bring a qui tam action under the federal FCA against someone who knowingly makes a false record or files a false claim about any federal health care program. You may be able to secure 15-25% of what is recovered if the government intervenes and prosecutes the case, or 25-30% if you pursue the case on your own. If you face discrimination, harassment, suspension, or termination at your job because you reported an FCA violation, you can be awarded two times your back pay plus interest, reinstatement at your job without loss of seniority, and compensation for damages.Seek Representation From a Whistleblower Lawyer in New York City or Long Island
Whether brought under state or federal law, whistleblower claims can be challenging to establish. Often, employees are at a disadvantage when going up against their employer in court. If you are considering exercising your rights under a whistleblower protection statute, you should call the skillful employment litigators at Gerstman Schwartz at (212) 227-7070 or contact us via our online form.