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New York City Lawyers for Whistleblowers Reporting Violations of COVID Protocols

In October of 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed amendments to the whistleblower law that expand protections. Whistleblower complaints have skyrocketed due to COVID-19 and the Delta and Omicron variants. The amendments take account of these recent changes to public health and safety. Among other things, the new provisions protect you from retaliation when you are an employee who reports your employer’s dangerous business activities or operations when they violate COVID protocols. If you believe your employer has retaliated or is going to retaliate against you because you have reported their breach or COVID protocols or are planning to do so, call the New York City whistleblower attorneys of Phillips & Associates. With a track record of success and many wins on behalf of workers against businesses of all sizes, we are well-positioned to represent clients in every industry.

COVID Protocols

The expansion of whistleblower protection is important for employees who report violations of COVID protocols. In the past, Labor Law section 740 only protected you from retaliation if you complained about an actual legal violation and it posed a substantial and particular danger to public health and safety. Additionally, employees needed to provide a reasonable chance to correct a violation before they reported misconduct to an investigative agency. This meant, for example, a restaurant server who voiced on social media a general complaint about an employer’s failure to enforce the requirement that diners and servers show proof of vaccination or mask up would not necessarily have had protection against retaliation prior to the amendments.

Furthermore, prior to the amendments, you had to give your employer a chance to correct a dangerous situation in order to receive protection. This made it more difficult to make the decision to report for those workers who noticed COVID protocol violations in their workplaces. The amendments recognize that COVID is highly contagious and more expedient reporting could be important to prevent the spread of COVID.

Under the amendment, it is enough to have a reasonable belief that your employer has violated COVID protocols. The violation you report doesn’t need to be a law, regulation, rule that is set out in advance and you are not penalized if you, in good faith, misapprehended how the law applies to the facts. You have protection against retaliation so long as the violation of protocol presented a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety, even when the court finds it was not an actual legal violation, so long as your belief was reasonable. This expansion of what employees are protected from is especially critical during COVID when scientific knowledge and the rules intended to address them shift quickly in a short span of time. A layperson should not be expected to understand precisely how the court will interpret changing laws, rules, and regulations related to COVID protocols, but instead may need to act quickly.

Who Is Protected?

The amendments expand who is protected from retaliation, as well. Our New York City whistleblower attorneys may be able to seek protect on your behalf even if you are reporting your former employer’s COVID protocol violation or if you are an independent contractor reporting a company’s violation. You are protected against retaliation even if you are not the whistleblower, but you give information about a COVID protocol violation to a public body that is investigating the protocol violation. You also have protection if you refuse to participate in a protocol violation. For example, you should be protected from retaliation if your employer doesn’t want workers to wear a mask because it’s not customer-friendly, but you refuse to come to work without wearing a mask.

What Constitutes Retaliation?

There has also been an expansion of what constitutes retaliation for purposes of seeking a remedy. Prior to the amendments, retaliation was defined in a more limited way as termination, suspension or demotion of an employee, or another adverse employment action taken in the terms and conditions of employment. However, the definition now includes any adverse action taken by an employer to terminate, penalize, threaten, or otherwise discriminate against you because you exercise your whistleblowing rights. It can include any action that adversely affects your current job, as well any a future job. So, for example, if a company tried to blackball you from the industry by sending messages to other prospective employers because you reported a COVID protocol violation, you would be as protected as if you were terminated or otherwise faced an adverse decision while working for the company as an employee. This brings the law in line with other protections against retaliation under New York City, New York State, and federal laws.

Hire Seasoned Employment Lawyers for Whistleblowers

If you were harmed by a COVID protocol violation, you should discuss your situation with a lawyer who stays at the forefront of employment law cases and understands the full scope and nuances of the laws that protect you as an employee. The seasoned New York City employment discrimination attorneys of Phillips & Associates may be able to help you. We fight for workers in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Nassau County or Suffolk County. Call us at (833) 529-3476 or complete our online form.

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"Hands down the best law firm for labor disputes in NYC. Being in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years I can say that this law firm is the number one choice for workers in the restaurant business that need to sue their company for wrongful termination. A special compliment to my lawyer Brittany Stevens. An amazing person and well prepared experienced lawyer. She was professional and empathetic to my case and worked in a time appropriate manner. She never miss a phone call at any hour of the day. Brittany and her team helped me with what I needed, when I needed it. I want to thank them all (especially Brittany), for a job well done." Massimo
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