Legislation (S.4394-A/A.5144-A) Provides Protection to Employees and Former Employees From Retaliatory Actions by Employers for the Reporting of Illegal or Dangerous Business Activities
Governor Kathy Hochul today signed legislation that protects employees from retaliatory actions by their employers in the case of reporting illegal or dangerous business activities. This specifically enhances protection for private sector employees who were less protected prior to this bill's enactment. The definition of employee is expanded to include former employees, protecting those who may have been retaliated against post-employment. This legislation goes on to widen the definition of retaliatory action, which will now include actions or threats to take actions that would adversely impact a former employee's current or future employment and contacting or threats to contact immigration authorities. With the addition of former employees being covered under this law, the statute of limitations was also extended to two years to ensure proper action can be taken in the case of retaliation.
"If we've learned anything from the pandemic, it's that protecting workers must be part of our overall economic recovery efforts," Governor Hochul said. "This legislation ensures that employees can speak out on dangerous or illegal business practices that endanger their health and wellbeing. No worker should have to endure poor working conditions, so I'm proud to further protect working New Yorkers by preventing workplace retaliation."
Employees will be protected whether or not they were acting within the scope of their job duties. This legislation also ensures employees only have to prove that they reasonably believe there is a violation of the law or that there is substantial or specific danger - whereas before they needed to show that there was an actual violation of law that created and presented a substantial and specific danger to be protected from retaliation — expanding the type of whistleblowing that is protected. This legislation makes protecting employees a priority, and allows them the comfort of knowing they can report illegal and dangerous activity without putting their livelihood at risk.
Senator Jessica Ramos said, "When a worker comes forward to raise the alarm on dangerous or unlawful conditions in their workplace, they should have the security to know that taking that courageous step will not come back to haunt them. S.4394A expands the same whistleblower protections available to public employees to workers in the private sector - including independent contractors. The importance of this bill has been emphasized by workers' experiences during the height of the pandemic, as well as in the face of a troubling national trend of efforts to misclassify workers. By signing this bill, Governor Hochul is taking a significant step to signal to workers that we have their backs, and their health, dignity, and safety at work are of paramount importance."
Assemblymember Michael Benedetto said, "This is a good day for the workers of New York. People will be free to report wrong doing they see or suspect is occurring at their worksites without having fear of being retaliated against. I applaud Governor Hochul for seeing the wisdom and signing this bill into law."
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