New York's Employment At-Will Doctrine Puts Private Company Compliance Personnel At Risk

July 27, 2012

In a recent case interpreting New York law, Sullivan v. Harnisch, the New York Court of Appeals relied on the state’s at-will employment doctrine to deny protection from retaliation to a compliance officer who “blew the whistle” through internal reporting mechanisms. The Court’s decision leaves New York as an outlier jurisdiction based on its failure to recognize a public policy exception to its at-will employment law doctrine. As discussed in this memorandum, the case risks further eroding public confidence in corporate governance at private, regulated institutions by sending the wrong message about the importance accorded by the law to internal compliance efforts.