Most well-meaning employers in New York City want their employees to feel comfortable that they are following the law and behaving ethically while at work.
If an employee sees that someone else in the company, even a supervisor, is behaving improperly or unsafely, employers likewise would want to know about it, even if they prefer to deal with the issue internally rather than involve outsider regulators.
However, this sentiment does not make protecting workplace whistleblowers an automatically easy task.
Even good executives at the highest level, who want employees to feel free to do the right thing, will need to be well aware of the laws which apply to New York whistleblowers and will need to develop a proper legal strategy for complying with all of them.
Different laws afford New Yorkers whistleblower protection
One problem is that there are different federal and state laws which provide New York employees protection from workplace retaliation if they report misconduct or participate in a government investigation. While these laws may overlap in some respects, they can be different in important ways.
As a result, an employer will need to craft and consistently enforce a program that both ensures the employer follows all whistleblower protection laws and still protects the company’s legitimate business interests.
Employers do not have to tolerate poor performance, insubordination
Whistleblower protections also have limits. For example, the laws do not give an employee the right to spread any information they want in the mainstream media or online on various news and social media websites.
Likewise, a whistleblower still has to follow the same rules and performance standards as any other employee.
The protections are in place to make sure that employees who want to confront wrongdoing have the tools to do so, not to give a bad employee a free pass to escape discipline.
In many cases, the key is for employers to be sure that they have a consistent employee evaluation and discipline process that all levels of supervisors enforce consistently. Having a clear channel through which an employee can raise concerns about any law violations is also helpful.
Too many cases get lost because an employer cannot document that they disciplined or took another action against an employee for a valid reason and not because he or she was a whistleblower.
A good employment law attorney can help an employer craft a plan for complying with whistleblower laws.