Federal agencies in New York and across the country have received updates to previous instructions they received on whistleblower protections. They've also been provided with new instructions and information on how these new guidelines should be implemented with the goal of protecting whistleblowers.
New York workers who engage in whistleblowing are protected under federal laws. When the workers report their employers for engaging in illegal behavior, the companies are prohibited from retaliating against them for engaging in protected activities. Retaliation may include any negative job action, including termination. It might also include filing defamation lawsuits against whistleblowers if the purpose is retaliatory.
Employees who witness sexual harassment or other kinds of dangerous and illegal conduct at their New York workplaces may be afraid of speaking up due to threats of retaliation. While retaliation against whistleblowers is generally illegal, this doesn't mean that people who report unethical or damaging conduct have nothing to worry about.
While many New Yorkers may know that whistleblowers are supposed to be protected in the workplace, they might not specifically know what their employee rights are in this situation. There are a number of different laws that protect whistleblowers, and some are specific to certain industries or dependent on context. For this reason, employees might want to begin by consulting an attorney even if they plan to try to resolve the issue in the workplace.
The Dodd-Frank Act regulates the activities of banks in New York and around the country. The law also protects employees who report securities violations to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has expanded the whistleblower protections to include employees who complain internally but who do not make formal reports to the SEC.
New York residents may have heard about an Amtrak worker who won $892,551 after being wrongfully terminated by Amtrak. The order was handed down by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In 2010, the man provided information to the company's Dispute Resolution Office related to safety concerns that he had regarding a contractor's work. The following month, he received his first-ever poor performance review.
New York workers might be interested to learn that BlueLinx Holdings Inc. will pay a civil penalty of $256,000 for requiring outgoing workers to defer their rights to monetary recovery if they file complaints with federal agencies. The SEC reported that about 160 employees signed severance contracts that included the provision, which BlueLinx added in June 2013.