Retaliation & Whistelblower

Retaliation and Whistleblower Lawyer serving Rockland County, NY & Bergen County, NJ

If you work or live in Rockland County, NY, or in Bergen County, NJ and are in need of a retaliation or whistleblower lawyer, The Zdanis Law Firm can help.  Lead attorney, Karen Zdanis, has both a MBA and her law degree.  She began her career consulting with Fortune type corporations and has been practicing law since 2001.  This real world understating of business and how corporations operate give her and understanding of the issues of age discrimination that cannot just be learned in law school.  The firm is small enough to give you the attention you want but talented and experienced enough to deliver the results you need.

Retaliation and Whistleblowing Claims:

What Constitutes Illegal Employer Retaliation and/or Whistleblowing?

There are different state and federal laws make it unlawful for employers to retaliate against whistleblowers, employees who report their employer’s unlawful, criminal, or fraudulent practices.

Retaliation – An employee has a legal right to make complaints about discrimination, harassment and other unlawful conduct he or she faces in the workplace. If your employer fires, harasses, suspends and/or demotes you because you filed a discrimination claim or grievance or voiced a discrimination complaint, your rights may have been violated, and you may be able to bring a lawsuit for it.

Whistleblowing – Throughout the course of his or her employment, an employee may come into contact with knowledge that an employer is violating the law. The knowledge may or may not pertain to the employee’s work environment itself. If the employee reports illegal activity the employee may be called a whistleblower, even if the information reported has nothing to do with the workplace setting itself. Whistleblower claim is different from a retaliation claim in that whistleblower laws typically are found under different set of laws than employment discrimination laws.  New York and New Jersey both have laws to protect employees who report illegal activity, but they are different as far as what type of whistleblowing protects employees.

Below is a brief explanation of what is protected in New Jersey and New York.

Retaliation in New York:

The New York State Human Rights Law makes it an unlawful for an employer to “retaliate or discriminate against any person because he or she has opposed any practices forbidden under this article or because he or she has filed a complaint, testified or assisted in any proceeding under this article.” N.Y. Exec. Law § 296(7).

Retaliation claims under this New York law must meet two requirements.  They must “plausibly allege that: (1) an employer discriminated — or took an adverse employment action — against an employee (2) ‘because’ he has opposed any unlawful employment practice.” Vega v. Hempstead Union Free Sch. Dist., 801 F.3d 72, (2d Cir. N.Y. 2015).

In other words, the Executive Law is the state law that protects employees against retaliation, and makes it illegal for employers to punish employees who have made either an internal or external complaint of employment discrimination by treating them unfairly in the workplace.  There is a standard by which an employee must be “unfairly treated” to rise to the level of a claim suitable for a lawsuit. The unfair treatment must come in the form of an adverse employment action.  The most straightforward examples of some adverse employment actions taken is firing an employee, demoting an employee, providing unjustifiably bad performance reviews and/or unjustifiably suspending an employee with or without pay.

In order to state a claim for retaliation, a plaintiff must plausibly allege that “(1) [Plaintiff] engaged in a protected activity; (2) the employer was aware of the protected activity; (3) the employer took adverse action; and (4) a causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse action.” Shah v. N.Y. State Dep’t of Civ. Serv., 341 Fed. Appx. 670, 673 (2d Cir. 2009).

Whistleblowing in New York:

Only certain types of whistleblowing are protected according to New York Law. If an employee makes a complaint about a discriminatory action taken by the employer, he or she may be protected by New York’s Human Rights Law, as discussed above.

Also, in New York, employees who report that the employer is defrauding a government agency may be protected by New York’s False Claims Act (the “FCA”). The FCA requires an individual who reports an illegal activity to have a “good faith basis or objectively reasonable basis for believing that the defendants were committing fraud.” See, State of New York ex rel. Banerjee v Moody’s Corp., 2016 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 4599 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2016). Under the False Claims Act, the employee needs to prove that he or she made actual allegations that fraud was being perpetrated against the government by his or her employer.  In New York, Labor Law Section 740 also contains a whistleblower statute that protects health care workers who report, object to, or refuse to participate in a “policy or practice of the employer that is in violation of law, rule or regulation which violation creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety, or which constitutes health care fraud.”

Retaliation and Whistleblowing in New Jersey:

New Jersey has a comprehensive retaliation and whistleblower statute that protects employees from retaliation of making not just discrimination complaints, but complaints involving other unlawful acts.  The statute is titled the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). Under CEPA, your rights have been violated if you were fired, demoted, disciplined, harassed… or suffered other significant negative consequences for reporting activities you reasonably believed were unlawful.  The legal inquiry often becomes focused on whether the employee held an objectively reasonable belief that the activities were unlawful, which is the standard for Fischer v. G4S Secure Solutions USA, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86139, 2014 WL 2887803 (D.N.J. June 25, 2014).  In other words, the employee is required to show “that reasonable juror could find that he or she “had an objectively reasonable belief that the complained-of conduct violated a law, rule, regulation or clear mandate of public policy. Id.

Lawyer Karen Zdanis has a Distinctive Approach to Whisteblowing and Retaliation Cases:

Employment law has many facets that are different from issues faced in general litigation. Not only because there are often personal and emotional issues at play, but because the laws pertaining to employment law are complex.  In some cases, an employee needs to file with a government administrative agency before going to court, or in other cases file a notice of claim within a short amount of time after being terminated.

In my opinion, which incorporates more than fifteen years of successfully representing employer and employees as clients, employment law cases are best suited for attorneys equipped with specific knowledge and experience because they involve different rules and obligations.  I make sure my clients are always as educated as possible about these choices, because an informed choice is important from start to finish.  My approach is to begin a case with as much information as possible, so that I fully understand the client’s perspective.  This enables me to formulate a strategy that is best suited for the case.

How is the Zdanis Law Firm Different?

Because each case is unique, I do not believe there is a scripted answer to apply to employment cases. I pay careful attention, especially at the beginning of a case to make sure the appropriate steps are followed.  Someone who has been discriminated against often has options as far as what legal course of action to take. An employee who has been retaliated against for whistleblowing or reporting employment discrimination should consider all options available to him or her to be able to make the best choice for his or her individual situation.

My firm is small, however I believe the personal attention I am able to provide yields insurmountable benefits.  I only take on cases that I believe have merit. If I decide to take a case, I set a plan from the beginning, tailored to each specific case’s needs. That is why I believe my approach to handling retaliation cases is effective.

What do I do if I think I may have a Retaliation or Whistleblower Claim? Speak to a good lawyer

When you need to speak with lawyer regarding retaliation or whistleblowing In Rockland County or Bergen County, call The Zdanis Law Firm

If you have read the above information on whistleblowing and retaliation and think you are a victim, the first step to deciding whether or not you should pursue a legal action is to understand your rights. I am available for a brief telephone call to determine if your situation rises to the level of a valid legal claim and to discern if it merits an in-person consultation. Good legal counsel is an important component to protecting your rights.  When you need a retaliation or whistleblower lawyer call The Zdanis Law Frim – Rockland County, NY: 845-356-0855, Bergen County, NJ:  201-695-8005.