Too many New Yorkers face unsafe or illegal workplace conditions but fear retaliation if they report it. They worry about losing their jobs, being passed over for promotions, or getting bad references from their employers if they speak out.
Workers in this difficult situation now have more protection after Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation expanding protections for whistleblowers.
What the legislation means
The new legislation enhances protections for employees against retaliation by employers by, among other things:
- Protecting former employees in addition to current employees
- Prohibiting actions or threats of actions that would hurt a person’s future employment prospects or immigration status
- Protecting workers who reasonably believe that there are illegal or dangerous conditions, instead of requiring employees to prove that an actual violation occurred
- Extending the statute of limitations for reporting retaliation to two years
These measures ensure that more people have the legal protection to report unsafe or unlawful work conditions without the fear of being punished by their employers.
Before this new bill, employers could give former employees bad references or report them to immigration officials as punishment for reporting illegal or dangerous business activities. These post-employment penalties are no longer lawful.
What to do if you fear retaliation
The potential for retaliation is a primary concern for potential whistleblowers. People do not want their employer’s illegal acts to derail their own career and future. This can allow improper business activities to continue if employees are too fearful to report their employer’s unlawful conduct.
The passage of this legislation adds more protection for those trying to stop employees from speaking out.
However, too many employers still engage in retaliatory actions—those who do deserve to face the consequences. Thus, any worker concerned that they could be the victim of retaliation can consult an attorney to help them navigate these issues.
Employers can prevent retaliation claims by refraining from actions that violate employee rights. Understanding what the law prohibits can be crucial in making lawful employment decisions involving whistleblowers or former whistleblowers.
That said, the laws can and do change. Following developments like this legislation can help New Yorkers make informed decisions about their rights.