In October 2021, New York Governor Hochul signed into law four new pieces of legislation affecting employees and employers in New York State.
First, on October 28, 2021, New York Governor Hochul signed into law new legislation amending New York’s existing Whistleblower Law, NY Labor Law § 740: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-signs-legislation-protecting-employees-retaliation.
These new amendments, which take effect January 26, 2022, substantially enlarge and enhance whistleblower protections for private sector employees. The New York whistleblower law has not previously been widely utilized. However, due to expanded protections; increased damages, penalties and liabilities; lesser burdens of proof; and lesser requirements, the new amendments will likely make this New York whistleblower statute the subject of increased litigation and disputes between employers and employees.
Among these new changes, the definition of employee will now include contractors and former employees. The new law also provides broader definitions of and protections against retaliation. Further, the new law broadens protections for whistleblowers to include reasonable beliefs of violations of law, rule, regulation or executive order or violations that the employee reasonably believes pose a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. The new amendments provide exemptions from prior employer notification requirements in some circumstances, extend the statute of limitations for a civil action in court under the Whistleblower Law and provide for increased damages and penalties for violations.
Finally, the new law also contains new publication and notice requirements. Employers should update their employment policies, postings and handbooks.
Second, Governor Hochul also signed into law on November 1, 2021, amendments to New York’s Paid Family Law which now include paid family leave to care for siblings: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-signs-legislation-expanding-new-york-states-paid-family-leave. This is part of a growing trend at the federal, state and local levels to provide increased paid time off to care for family members. Employer policies and handbook provisions on paid family leave should, therefore, be updated to reflect this expanded paid leave. New York’s Paid Leave program, like New Jersey’s Paid Family Leave program, is administered by the state and is funded by employee contributions through payroll deductions.
Third, on October 23, 2021, Governor Hochul signed a new law which permits employees facing potential layoffs to petition their employers for shared work programs prior to layoff: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-signs-legislation-allowing-employees-facing-potential-layoffs-petition.
Fourth, on October 9, 2021, Governor Hochul signed into law legislation classifying certain threats to report a person’s immigration status as extortion or coercion under New York law: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-signs-legislation-protecting-undocumented-immigrants-threats-report-their.