Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Whistle blower’s failure to cite any specific law, rule, or regulation allegedly violated by the employer in the complaint not fatal to pleading a viable cause of action


Whistle blower’s failure to cite any specific law, rule, or regulation allegedly violated by the employer in the complaint not fatal to pleading a viable cause of action
2014 NY Slip Op 04889, Appellate Division, Second Department

In an action to recover damages for violation of Labor Law §740, the plaintiff [WB] appealed an order of the Supreme Court that granted the employer's motion to dismiss the complaint for “failure to state a cause of action.”

A cause of action based upon Labor Law §740, commonly known as the "whistleblower statute," is available "to an employee who discloses or threatens to disclose an employer activity or practice which (1) is in violation of a law, rule or regulation, and (2) creates a substantial and specific danger to the public health'"*

The Article 78 petition alleged that the plaintiff [WB] was terminated from her position after she complained to her superiors about certain conduct that the employer engaged in or tolerated. It further alleged that such conduct violated various laws or rules or regulations, and threatened public health.

Although WB’s complaint did not specify any particular law, rule or regulation that the employer allegedly violated, the Appellate Division said that it sufficiently identified the complained-of conduct by the employer and provided the required notice. Therefore, said the court, the failure to specify in the complaint any law, rule, or regulation was not fatal to pleading a viable cause of action pursuant to Labor Law §740.**

Accordingly, said the Appellate Division, that branch of the employer's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action should have been denied by Supreme Court.

Reversing the Supreme Court’s ruling “on the law,” the Appellate Division denied the employer’s motion to dismiss WB’s complaint for failure to state a cause of action.

* §75-B.2(a) of the Civil Service Law provides, in pertinent part, “A public employer shall not dismiss or take other disciplinary or other adverse personnel action against a public employee regarding the employee's employment because the employee discloses to a governmental body information: (i) regarding a violation of a law, rule or regulation which violation creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety; or (ii) which the employee reasonably believes to be true and reasonably believes constitutes an improper governmental action.

** On a motion to dismiss pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) for failure to state a cause of action, the complaint must be construed liberally, the factual allegations deemed to be true, and the nonmoving party must be given the benefit of all favorable inferences.
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