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New York Prohibits Retaliation Against Health Care Whistleblowers

  • July 10, 2002

In a recently enacted statute, New York specifically has prohibited retaliatory employment actions against any health care employee who discloses or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or public body any activity, policy or practice the employee, in good faith, reasonably believes constitutes improper quality of patient care. The whistleblower protection also extends to an employee who objects to, or refuses to participate in, any activity, policy or practice of the employer the employee, in good faith, reasonably believes constitutes improper quality of patient care.

According to the statute, "improper quality of patient care" means any employer practice, procedure, action, or failure to act which violates any law, rule, regulation or declaratory ruling adopted pursuant to law. Any such violation must relate to matters which may present a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or a significant threat to the health of a specific patient. An employee will be protected against retaliatory personnel action only if the alleged improper conduct is brought to the attention of a supervisor and the employer has a reasonable opportunity to correct it. There is an exception if the action or failure to act presents an imminent threat to public health or safety or to the health of a specific patient, and the employee reasonably believes in good faith that reporting to a supervisor would not result in corrective action.

A health care employee may enforce his or her rights under the whistleblower protection statute by bringing an action for damages and other relief in state court within two years of the alleged improper conduct. The statute specifically provides that, if the employer took adverse employment action on grounds other than the exercise of the employee's whistleblower protection rights, that shall be a defense. The court has the discretion to assess a civil penalty of up to $10,000 if it finds the employer acted in bad faith. Civil penalties will be paid to a special fund for improving quality of patient care established by the statute.

©2002 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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