An amendment to New York’s whistleblower law that significantly broadens the scope of whistleblower protections in the state also adds independent contractors to the definition of protected employees, JD Supra reported.

Signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Oct. 28, Senate Bill S4394A expands the state’s whistleblower protection law to include the disclosure, or threat to disclose, to a supervisor or governmental body, an “activity, policy or practice of the employer that the employee or independent contractor reasonably believes is in violation of [any] law, rule or regulation,” even if unrelated to public health and safety and without the requirement of proving that a law had been violated.

Previously, protected disclosures were limited to matters “in violation of law” that presented a “substantial danger to the public health or safety, or that which constitutes healthcare fraud,” according to JD Supra. In applying the statute, courts would place the burden on the workers to prove not only that the activity, policy or practice at issue satisfied the substantial danger requirement but also actually violated the law.

Senate Bill S4394A also adds to the list of prohibited retaliatory acts against former employees and independent contractors who have “blown the whistle,” such as blacklisting and threatening to contact federal immigration authorities about the worker or a member of his or her family or household.

JD Supra notes New York had previously included independent contractors as covered employees in a 2019 amendment to its Human Rights Law prohibiting unlawful discrimination against independent contractors who provide services to an employer. The inclusion of independent contractors in these employee protection laws may favor companies in the state that use independent contractors in that such workers alleging discrimination or retaliation need not first prove misclassification in order to make their case. Read more about the topic on JD Supra.