Whistleblower Rights in New York – FAQ Part 2: Knowing When to Blow the Whistle – What to Do

June 7, 2023

Last week, we presented an overview of New York whistleblower protections. This week, we dive deeper into some of the specifics. Stay tuned for Part 3 next week. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of articles responding to frequently asked questions concerning whistleblower laws in New York.

How do New York whistleblowers report fraud, waste, discrimination, or other misconduct by my company?

There are New York State and Federal laws that allow New Yorkers to report certain types of misconduct directly to the government. For example, the New York False Claims Act and the Federal False Claims Act allow whistleblowers to report fraud against the government. The New York False Claims Act also allows whistleblowers to report underpayment of New York State taxes. However, these laws require whistleblowers to bring the lawsuits through an attorney. An experienced whistleblower attorney can evaluate your claims and determine whether you can bring a claim under the New York State or Federal False Claims Acts. Other government agencies have hotlines and other ways to submit whistleblower tips.

There are also Federal laws that allow whistleblowers to report fraud, waste, discrimination, or other misconduct. For example:

  • the Federal False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to report fraud against the federal government. Unlike the New York State False Claims Act, however, the Federal False Claims Act does not include underpayment of taxes.
  • But the IRS has a whistleblower program that allows whistleblowers to report tax fraud or underpayments.
  • The Treasury Department also has a whistleblower program that allows whistleblowers to report money laundering violations.
  • Similarly, the Securities and Exchange Commission has a whistleblower program that allows whistleblowers to report securities fraud, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission whistleblower program allows whistleblowers to report violations of commodities laws. Tips to both the SEC and CFTC programs are confidential, and whistleblowers who file SEC or CFTC tips through an attorney may do so anonymously.

Whistleblowers may also report internally, and employers are legally prohibited from retaliating against whistleblowers who raise reasonable concerns about violations of law or workplace safety. However, while many statutes prohibit employers from retaliating against whistleblowers who make certain types of internal reports, often times many whistleblowers who raise concerns to their supervisors or to others at their company face retaliation.

I blew the whistle, and I was fired. Have I been retaliated against?

Employers may not terminate a whistleblower for engaging in protected whistleblowing. Whether you are entitled to legal protections for retaliation depends on what conduct you raised, when and how you raised it, and why your employer terminated you. Under some whistleblower protection laws, your protected whistleblowing only needs to be a “contributing factor” to your termination—meaning that even if there are other reasons that you were fired, you may still be entitled to protection if your whistleblowing was one of the reasons. Other whistleblower laws have different standards, so it is important to understand all the facts and circumstances surrounding your whistleblowing, your employment, and your termination to know whether you have a claim.

I blew the whistle and I haven’t been fired, but my employer has done other things that feel like retaliation. What are some forms of retaliation other than being fired?

Retaliation is not limited to being fired. Retaliation may take many forms, including suspension, harassment, demotion, reduction in salary, change in role, discrimination, or other forms of what are referred to as “adverse employment actions.” Some whistleblower protection laws are more expansive than others, so it is important to carefully consider all potential claims when assessing whether you have suffered retaliation.

What could be my remedies if I am retaliated against for blowing the whistle?

Whistleblowers who suffer retaliation for blowing the whistle may be entitled to reinstatement, damages, attorneys’ fees, or other compensation, depending on the type of whistleblowing they engaged in and the nature of the retaliation.

No matter where you are in the whistleblowing process, it may be a good idea to consult with an attorney to advise you on how to balance protecting yourself against retaliation and raising reasonable concerns about misconduct. If you’re thinking about blowing the whistle, an attorney can navigate the process. An attorney may also be able to advise you whether the misconduct you’ve identified is something that might be eligible for an award under the New York False Claims Act, the Federal False Claims Act, the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Programs, the Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Program, the IRS Whistleblower Program, or other reward programs. If you’ve already blown the whistle and have suffered retaliation, an attorney may be able to help you understand your rights and ability to recover under various whistleblower protection laws.

(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)