School Districts and Municipalities: Governor Cuomo Signs Bill Amending Public Employee Whistle Blower Protection Statute

January 20, 2016

By: Jeffrey A. Kehl

On December 28, 2015, Governor Cuomo signed a bill repealing Civil Service Law § 75-b(2)(b). This has a significant effect on the anti-retaliation provisions of New York’s "whistle blower" protection statute for public employees who report to a governmental body either (a) violations of a law, rule or regulation, or (b) something which an employee reasonably believes to be "improper governmental action."

Civil Service Law § 75-b protects public employees who are whistle blowers against retaliation by public employers (which includes the State of New York, counties, cities, towns, villages, and school districts). As originally enacted, § 75-b(2)(b) (now repealed) required that a public employee, in order to invoke the anti-retaliation protection, first "shall have made a good faith effort to provide the appointing authority or his or her designee the information to be disclosed and shall provide the appointing authority or designee a reasonable time to take appropriate action unless there is imminent and serious danger to public health or safety."

With the repeal, there now appears to be no requirement that the employee report the issue internally before taking it to another governmental body. While no doubt well-intentioned, the repeal may very well empower disgruntled employees to pepper regulatory and criminal authorities with complaints of alleged misconduct.

In addition to the fact that public employers should generally be aware of this change, public employers should also examine and review their existing whistle blower policies to determine if any revisions should be made.

To learn more, contact Jeffrey A. Kehl at 646.253.2345 or jkehl@bsk.com.