Workplace Assault, Followed by Termination, Held Insufficient to Make Out NY Labor Law Whistleblower/Retaliation Claims

In Sakthivel v. Industrious Staffing Co., LLC, No. 650435/2020, 2021 WL 53146, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 30025(U), 4–5 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Jan. 06, 2021), the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims of wrongful termination  under the New York Labor Law (specifically, NY Labor Law §§ 215, 740(2)).

From the decision:

Plaintiff alleges a workplace assault and then the adverse employment of termination. “Plaintiff does not allege any facts to suggest that he was retaliated against because he disclosed or threatened to disclose an activity, policy or practice … which … present[ed] a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety” (see Meadows v. Planet Aid, Inc., 676 F. Supp. 2d 83, 97 [E.D.N.Y. 2009]). “Employee failed to state a cause of action for a report of alleged workplace assault by immediate supervisor that required hospitalization because employee was not engaged in protected activity (see Horgan v. Whitaker, 57 A.D.3d 1345, 1347-48, [3rd Dept 2008]).

*3 The Court of Appeals decrees that “Labor Law § 740(2), commonly referred to as the ‘whistleblower statute,’ provides, in relevant part, that ‘[a]n employer shall not take any retaliatory personnel action against an employee because such employee … discloses, or threatens to disclose to a supervisor … that is in violation of law, rule or regulation’ that either ‘creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety’ (see Webb-Weber v. Community Action for Human Servs., Inc., 23 N.Y.3d 448, 452 [N.Y. 2014].

To state a claim under § 740, the “complaint must identify the particular activities, policies or practices in which the employer allegedly engaged, so that the complaint provides the employer with notice of the alleged complained-of conduct” (see Frederick v. State, 232 F. Supp. 3d 326, 333 [W.D.N.Y. 2017]; **5 Webb-Weber v. Cmty. Action for Hum. Servs., Inc., 23 N.Y.3d 448, 452 [2014].

Defendant contends “Plaintiff is attempting to turn an allegation that a female co-worker allegedly pushed her while walking past her into a full-blown whistle-blower claim. Plaintiff did not report an ‘actual violation’ of law that would entitle her to relief under NYLL’s whistleblower provision.

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