On June 17, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law S.8397-A, which amends Section 741 of the New York Labor Law and creates a new definition of “improper quality of workplace safety.” Section 741 protects employees who blow the whistle on alleged improper workplace conditions. Under the existing Section 741, an employee may not be penalized for disclosing or threatening to disclose to a supervisor, or to a public body, an activity, policy or practice of the employer that the employee reasonably believes constitutes improper quality of patient care. The term “public body” had been interpreted to include federal, state and local regulatory agencies. The revised employer whistleblower law now protects health care workers who directly alert the public to PPE shortages or other improper care practices through the press or social media. To that end, the new law includes “news media outlet” and “social media forum available to the public at large” to the list of entities employees may inform about improper care practices. The new law is effective immediately.

Takeaway For Employers

The new legislation provides healthcare professionals with greater whistleblower protections, and will undoubtedly encourage more workers to speak out publicly about improper working conditions. Employers will have to review their disciplinary and social media policies to ensure compliance with the law. Any action taken against an employee after the employee voices concerns over social media may result in employer liability.

 

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Putney, Twombly, Hall & Hirson LLP

 

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