Bill Text: NY S01276 | 2021-2022 | General Assembly | Introduced


Bill Title: Directs the NYS energy research and development authority and public and private operators of each nuclear-powered electric generating facility to establish a nuclear whistleblower access and assistance program; makes related provisions as to elements of the program and provides that employees of such plants shall not be subject to retaliation; requires authority to investigate reported safety concerns; provides that whistleblowers shall have standing to litigate and may do so without exhaustion of administration remedies; authorizes the attorney general to bring actions to enforce the labor law provisions.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Democrat 3-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2021-01-08 - REFERRED TO ENERGY AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS [S01276 Detail]

Download: New_York-2021-S01276-Introduced.html



                STATE OF NEW YORK
        ________________________________________________________________________

                                          1276

                               2021-2022 Regular Sessions

                    IN SENATE

                                     January 8, 2021
                                       ___________

        Introduced  by  Sens.  KRUEGER,  LIU,  SERRANO -- read twice and ordered
          printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee  on  Energy
          and Telecommunications

        AN  ACT to amend the public authorities law, the public service law, the
          labor law, the civil service law and the executive law, in relation to
          establishing a nuclear whistleblower access and assistance program

          The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and  Assem-
        bly, do enact as follows:

     1    Section  1.  The legislature finds that safe operation of the publicly
     2  and privately owned nuclear-powered electric generating facilities with-
     3  in the state is a matter of paramount public  concern.  The  legislature
     4  further  finds  that  an essential component of any safety strategy is a
     5  program which assures that employees who have  first-hand  knowledge  of
     6  potential  safety problems can freely communicate their concerns without
     7  fear of retaliation.  Although laws and regulations exist  at  both  the
     8  state and federal level to protect whistleblowers, the legislature finds
     9  that the purpose served by such laws will be furthered if an affirmative
    10  program  exists  which encourages employees to come forward with safety-
    11  related concerns. The legislature finds that the state, as the owner  of
    12  the  power  plants  operated  by the power authority of the state of New
    13  York, has an interest and obligation to ensure that such facilities  are
    14  being managed in a way that provides the highest possible level of safe-
    15  ty.    The  legislature  also  finds  that  the state has an interest in
    16  protecting and an obligation to protect its citizens from  the  possible
    17  hazards  of  privately owned nuclear-powered electric generating facili-
    18  ties.
    19    § 2. The public authorities law is amended by  adding  a  new  section
    20  1873-b to read as follows:
    21    §  1873-b.  Nuclear  whistleblower  access and assistance program.  1.
    22  "Employees at a  nuclear-powered  electric  generating  facility"  means
    23  those  persons  employed at publicly and privately owned nuclear-powered

         EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                              [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                                   LBD04382-02-1

        S. 1276                             2

     1  electric generating facilities, including but not limited to:  full-time
     2  and  part-time employees, contractors, those employees on probation, and
     3  temporary employees.
     4    2.  The  authority,  after consultation with the United States nuclear
     5  regulatory commission, the chair of the public service  commission,  and
     6  the  commissioner  of the department of labor, shall establish a nuclear
     7  whistleblower access and assistance program.
     8    3. The nuclear  whistleblower  access  and  assistance  program  shall
     9  include, at a minimum, the following provisions:
    10    (a) the authority shall evaluate and comment on whistleblower programs
    11  proposed  by operators of nuclear-powered electric generating facilities
    12  pursuant to section one  thousand  five  of  this  chapter  and  section
    13  sixty-five of the public service law;
    14    (b)  the  authority  shall establish toll-free telephone and facsimile
    15  lines available to contractors,  advocates  shielding  the  identity  of
    16  inside  whistleblowers,  and  all persons within the state of New York's
    17  nuclear industry who have knowledge of issues that affect public  health
    18  and safety. The authority shall offer:
    19    (i)  advice regarding the employee's rights under applicable state and
    20  federal laws and advice and options available to all persons;
    21    (ii) an opportunity for contractors, advocates shielding the  identity
    22  of inside whistleblowers, and all persons within the state of New York's
    23  nuclear  industry  to  identify concerns regarding any safety issue at a
    24  nuclear-powered electric generating facility, including but not  limited
    25  to  any violations or potential violations of regulations of the nuclear
    26  regulatory commission;
    27    (iii) the option of contacting a neutral consultant for the purpose of
    28  seeking unbiased, non-governmental information to  help  resolve  safety
    29  concerns;
    30    (c)  any communications between an employee and the authority pursuant
    31  to this section shall be held strictly confidential  by  the  authority,
    32  unless  the  employee specifically waives in writing the right to confi-
    33  dentiality (the person alleging a safety violation is  not  required  to
    34  identify himself/herself) to any entity, including the nuclear regulato-
    35  ry commission;
    36    (d) the authority shall perform a preliminary evaluation of any safety
    37  concern  identified  by  a  caller within seventy-two hours and give the
    38  caller evaluation rights if he or she so desires and  conduct  follow-up
    39  reports  every two weeks thereafter for an appropriate length of time to
    40  be determined by the authority;
    41    (e) regarding any concern for which  the  authority  lacks  sufficient
    42  expertise  to  reach a conclusion or which, in the authority's judgment,
    43  represents a significant public health or safety concern, the  authority
    44  shall  contact  the  United  States nuclear regulatory commission, shall
    45  communicate such concern, and shall  maintain  communications  with  the
    46  commission  and  the  caller,  whenever possible, regarding any investi-
    47  gation of such concern; and
    48    (f) the authority shall consult with the department of  law  regarding
    49  any  employee  at a nuclear-powered electric generating facility who may
    50  have recourse to an action pursuant to section seven  hundred  forty  of
    51  the labor law or section seventy-five-b of the civil service law.
    52    4.  Whether or not the authority proceeds, the whistleblower, if iden-
    53  tified or the advocate who is shielding the identity of an inside whist-
    54  leblower, shall have standing to litigate and shall be entitled to expe-
    55  dited proceedings in the courts of this state without regard  to  having
    56  exhausted administrative remedies.

        S. 1276                             3

     1    §  3. Section 1005 of the public authorities  law is amended by adding
     2  a new subdivision 28 to read as follows:
     3    28.  At  each  nuclear-powered  electric  generating facility owned or
     4  operated by the authority, the authority shall establish and implement a
     5  whistleblower program. Within six months of the effective date  of  this
     6  subdivision,  the  authority  shall  submit to the New York state energy
     7  research and development authority a proposed  plan  for  a  program  to
     8  implement the purposes of this subdivision.  Such program shall include,
     9  at a minimum:
    10    (a) opportunity for access to senior management for purposes of commu-
    11  nicating safety concerns that affect public health and safety;
    12    (b)  education  regarding  employee rights and protections pursuant to
    13  applicable state and federal laws and  regulations,  including,  to  the
    14  extent permitted by the nuclear regulatory commission, display at promi-
    15  nent  locations  within  the  facility of the toll-free telephone number
    16  which provides access to the New York state energy research and develop-
    17  ment authority's nuclear whistleblower  access  and  assistance  program
    18  established pursuant to section eighteen hundred seventy-three-b of this
    19  chapter.
    20    §  4.  Section 65 of the public service law is amended by adding a new
    21  subdivision 17 to read as follows:
    22    17. At each nuclear-powered  electric  generating  facility  owned  or
    23  operated by an electric corporation, the corporation shall establish and
    24  implement  a  whistleblower  program. Within six months of the effective
    25  date of this subdivision, the corporation shall submit to the  New  York
    26  state  energy  research  and development authority a proposed plan for a
    27  program to implement the purposes  of  this  subdivision.  Such  program
    28  shall include, at a minimum:
    29    (a) opportunity for access to senior management for purposes of commu-
    30  nicating safety concerns;
    31    (b)  education  regarding  employee rights and protections pursuant to
    32  applicable state and federal laws and  regulations,  including,  to  the
    33  extent permitted by the nuclear regulatory commission, display at promi-
    34  nent  locations  within  the  facility of the toll-free telephone number
    35  which provides access to the New York state energy research and develop-
    36  ment authority's nuclear whistleblower access and assistance program.
    37    § 5. Paragraph (a) of subdivision 2 of section 740 of the  labor  law,
    38  as  amended  by  chapter  442 of the laws of 2006, is amended to read as
    39  follows:
    40    (a) discloses, or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or to a public
    41  body an activity,  policy  or  practice  of  the  employer  that  is  in
    42  violation  of  law,  rule  or  regulation  which  violation  creates and
    43  presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safe-
    44  ty, or which constitutes health care  fraud,  or,  in  the  case  of  an
    45  employee at a nuclear-powered electric generating facility, discloses or
    46  threatens to disclose any public health or safety concern, regardless of
    47  whether  or  not  such concern relates to a violation of a law, rule, or
    48  regulation;
    49    § 6. Subdivision 3 of section 740 of  the  labor  law  is  amended  by
    50  adding a new undesignated paragraph to read as follows:
    51    This subdivision shall not apply to any disclosure made by an employee
    52  at  a  nuclear-powered electric generating facility, as defined pursuant
    53  to section eighteen hundred seventy-three-b of  the  public  authorities
    54  law,  who believes in good-faith that a disclosure to a supervisor would
    55  be inconsistent with the federal obstruction of justice laws codified at
    56  18 U.S.C. 1512 or the atomic energy act/energy reorganization act.

        S. 1276                             4

     1    § 7. Paragraph (c) of subdivision 1  of  section  75-b  of  the  civil
     2  service  law, as added by chapter 660 of the laws of 1984, is amended to
     3  read as follows:
     4    (c)  "Governmental  body" shall mean (i) an officer, employee, agency,
     5  department, division, bureau, board, commission, council,  authority  or
     6  other  body  of  a public employer, (ii) employee, committee, member, or
     7  commission of the legislative branch of government,  (iii)  a  represen-
     8  tative,  member  or  employee  of  a legislative body of a county, town,
     9  village or any other political subdivision  or  civil  division  of  the
    10  state,  (iv) a law enforcement agency or any member or employee of a law
    11  enforcement agency, [or] (v) the judiciary or any employee of the  judi-
    12  ciary, (vi) employees at a nuclear-powered electric generating facility,
    13  or (vii) the United States nuclear regulatory commission.
    14    §  8.  Paragraph  (a)  of  subdivision  2 of section 75-b of the civil
    15  service law, as amended by chapter 899 of the laws of 1986,  is  amended
    16  to read as follows:
    17    [(a)]  A  public employer shall not dismiss or take other disciplinary
    18  or other adverse personnel action against a  public  employee  regarding
    19  the  employee's  employment  because the employee discloses to a govern-
    20  mental body information: (i) regarding a violation of  a  law,  rule  or
    21  regulation  which  violation  creates  and  presents  a  substantial and
    22  specific danger to the public health or  safety;  [or]  (ii)  which  the
    23  employee  reasonably believes to be true and reasonably believes consti-
    24  tutes an improper governmental action; or (iii) for  an  employee  at  a
    25  nuclear-powered  electric  generating  facility,  as defined pursuant to
    26  section eighteen hundred seventy-three-b of the public authorities  law,
    27  which relates to a public health or safety concern, regardless of wheth-
    28  er  or  not  such  concern relates to a violation of law, rule, or regu-
    29  lation. "Improper governmental action" shall mean any action by a public
    30  employer or employee, or an agent of such employer or employee, which is
    31  undertaken in the performance of such agent's official  duties,  whether
    32  or  not  such action is within the scope of his employment, and which is
    33  in violation of any federal, state or local law, rule or regulation.
    34    § 9. Section 63 of the executive law is amended by adding a new subdi-
    35  vision 17 to read as follows:
    36    17. Bring, upon the  recommendation  of  the  New  York  state  energy
    37  research  and  development  authority, actions pursuant to section seven
    38  hundred forty of the labor law and section seventy-five-b of  the  civil
    39  service  law on behalf of employees at nuclear-powered electric generat-
    40  ing facilities, as defined pursuant to section eighteen  hundred  seven-
    41  ty-three-b of the public authorities law.
    42    § 10. This act shall take effect immediately.
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