For business owners throughout the country, the potential of business litigation is a major source of stress. Thanks to a new law, New York businesses have one new source of litigation to worry about is whistleblower lawsuits.
Expanding private whistleblower exposure
The new law expands whistleblower protection to cover employees who report any illegal activity. The law’s definition of illegal activity is as expansive as it can be as it relates to any violation of law, rule, regulation, judicial order, administrative order, etc. If any governmental body has made, basically, any rule or edict that a company is not following to the letter, an employee can report it, and if it is not mitigated, stopped or if there is any retaliation, financial exposure could be extremely costly.
An easier proof requirement
Some employers may be thinking that the standard of proof is still “actual proof” as it used to be. That is not the case anymore. The whistleblower no longer has to have any proof that the illegal activity occurred. The standard is now “reasonable belief,” meaning the employee must have had a reasonable belief the business was breaking the law. believe This reasonable belief can be gained outside of their normal course of employment, meaning that whistleblower exposure could occur due to an overheard conversation in the cafeteria or in a smoking area.
More individuals can qualify as a whistleblower
What may keep some employers up at night is the new expansion of who qualifies as an employee. Both current and former employees now qualify, as do independent contractors. This means that a temporary worker could be brought in, overhear something false during lunch, and this could lead to a whistleblower lawsuit.
For New York, New York, business owners and C-level executives, this new law should not be taken lightly. Even for those that believe that they are following the letter of the law on everything they do, they should do a complete analysis of their entire operation. This includes how they do business, their employment and employee practices, everything.