Author: Josh Gittleman
Uploaded: Friday, November 12, 2021, 9:36 AM
Last Edited: Friday, November 12, 2021, 9:42 AM
Generally, at-will employment is when the employer has the ability to terminate an employee for any reason and without warning, as long as the reason is not illegal. There is a relatively short list of illegal reasons (e.g., firing because of the employee’s race, religion, or sexuality). The at-will rule is often justified by its proponents on the basis that an employee may be entitled to leave their job without reason or warning. In effect, an employer may legally terminate an employee for countless reasons without violating the law. For example, an employer may terminate an employee based on the employer’s opinion that the employee has been “disrespectful.” The employer’s termination is likely lawful even if the employee had good reason to act disrespectfully.
In New York, the “at-will” doctrine governs most employment relationships. However, New York law provides special protections for employees fired or retaliated against for raising concerns (blowing the whistle) about improper activity that is harmful to public health or safety. Specifically, New York Labor Law § 740, makes it illegal for, among other things, an employer to retaliate against an employee who:
- discloses or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or to a public body, activities, policies or practices that violate a law or regulation, and which create a “substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety”;
- discloses or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or to a public body, activities, policies or practices that violate a law or regulation, and which constitute health care fraud;
- provides information or testifies before a public body who is investigating or inquiring about the employer’s violation of a law, rule or regulation; or objects to or refuses to participate in an activity, policy or practice that would violate the law.
Recently, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill that will amend and effectively overhaul section 740. The amended law, which is scheduled to take effect on January 26, 2022, drastically expands the breadth and scope of section 740 by making it significantly easier for New York workers to bring a claim, lengthening the statute of limitations, and imposes a notice requirement on employers.
Do you need a Whistleblower Lawyer or want to know more information? Contact DeToffol & Gittleman to review your evidence and outline actionable steps to protect your legal rights.