Since the onset of COVID-19 outbreaks, many New York employees have feared retaliation or have already faced wrongful termination as a result of raising concerns for workplace safety during a global pandemic.
In New York, an Amazon employee made headlines after raising concerns about safety measures in the warehouse. And he was not the only one. Bloomberg Law reports that 39% of whistleblower cases this year have been COVID-19 related, with an overall increase of 30% in complaints.
The problem lawmakers and employees alike are finding is that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is backlogged with cases. This is stretching out the length of time these cases take to process, leaving employees feeling vulnerable.
Unfortunately, some employees, especially those on the frontline, have found that preexisting whistleblower protections have left our most vulnerable employees–hospital workers–at risk for retaliation and termination.
In March, NYU Langone Medical Center warned staffers that speaking to the media without permission, “will be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.” This came after nurses spoke to the media about the lack of personal protective equipment.
The previous New York State whistleblower protections only protected those whose claims are 100 percent accurate. However, in July, new legislation was approved, expanding those protections.
Bill A.5631A (Weinstein) / S.4396A (Ramos) expands protections to private sector employees and independent contractors who reasonably believe that a violation occurred at work, even if they were mistaken.
But with whistleblower claims still backlogged, what are concerned employees to do as the coronavirus continues to impact life in New York?
COVID-19 Protections – Whistleblower Protections
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has enacted protections for New York State and City employees during this uneasy time. You may file complaints against employers for the following reasons including, but not limited to:
- You are/were being forced to work at a business that is not allowed to operate
- You are being forced to work for a business that is allowed to operate, however, (1) your employer is not taking proper safety and health precautions, (2) you have particular concerns because you or a family member are part of a vulnerable population
- Your employer has failed to pay you wages owed for hours worked, earned sick pay or paid time off
- Your employer has threatened or fired you for reasons related to COVID-19
- You qualify for COVID-19 paid sick leave and your employer refuses to pay it
- Your employer is forcing you to work when you are sick
While you can file directly with the state, it is often best to consult with an employee rights attorney who can ensure you have met all criteria and have filed properly. You’ve waited long enough for justice to be served. Let us help you expedite the process.
Contact The New York City Whistleblower Attorneys Today
The novel coronavirus has shown us that employers are not always concerned about employee health and morale, rather they just want to ensure that the bottom line is met at any cost. But you’ve had enough. If your employer retaliates against you for being a whistleblower, or you go through with a whistleblower claim, know that you do not have to do it alone.
If you have a whistleblower claim in New York City or New York State, call Brown Kwon & Lam, LLP today.