The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff’s retaliation claim pursuant to Civil Service Law 75-b should not have been dismissed. Plaintiff, an employee of the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), alleged he was denied a job because of a poor reference allegedly made in retaliation for his reporting a conflict of interest to the City’s Department of Investigation. At the time plaintiff brought this action he had retired, but his retirement did not preclude his Civil Service Law cause of action:
… [W]e reject the motion’s court determination that Civil Service Law § 75-b does not apply to actions taken by a public employer after an employee has resigned. Civil Service Law § 75-b prohibits a public employer from dismissing or taking any “other disciplinary or other adverse personnel action against a public employee regarding the employee’s employment” because the employee discloses information of either (1) a violation of rule or law, which presents a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety, or (2) improper governmental action … . Section 75-b serves a purpose similar to that of other anti-retaliation statutes, including the New York State Human Rights Law (Executive Law § 296) and the New York City Human Rights Law (Administrative Code of City of NY § 8-107), in that they “‘remediat[e] adverse employment actions which, if allowed, would undermine important public policy'” … . Thus, an analogous reading of the term “employee” under Civil Service Law § 75-b to include former employees alleging post-employment retaliation for reports made in the course of their prior employment, is appropriate … . Moreover, blacklisting and providing negative references to an individual’s prospective employers in retaliation for prior reports of government misconduct may constitute adverse personnel action under the statute, in the same way that the State Human Rights Law has been found to cover such acts … . DaCosta v New York City Dept. of Bldgs., 2022 NY Slip Op 01963, First Dept 3-22-22
Practice Point: Civil Service Law 75-b serves the same purpose as the employment anti-retaliation statutes in the New York State and New York City Human Rights Law. The NYC employee’s Civil Service Law 75-b cause of action, alleging he was given a poor reference in retaliation for reporting a conflict of interest, should not have been dismissed, even though he had resigned at the time the suit was filed.