New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) is one of the most far-reaching whistleblower laws in the nation. It was enacted to protect employees from the retaliatory actions of their employers for having disclosed or “blown the whistle” on their employer’s participation in unlawful or harmful activity. Our New Jersey Supreme Court has made clear the overarching goal of CEPA is to “protect and encourage employees to report illegal or unethical workplace activities and to discourage public and private sector employers from engaging in such conduct.” CEPA effectuates important public policies of overcoming the victimization of employees and protecting those who are especially vulnerable in the workplace from the improper or unlawful exercise of authority by employers.
As a whistleblower an employee is vested with protection if the employee either discloses or objects to an activity of the employer which the employee reasonably believes is in violation of law, regulation, rule or incompatible with a clear mandate of public policy. In order to establish a claim under CEPA an employee must show that it is more likely than not that: (1) he/she disclosed or objected to unlawful or fraudulent conduct (or conduct affecting the quality of patient care for medical professionals); (2) he/she reasonably believed that his employer’s conduct was violating either a law, rule, regulation, or clear mandate of public policy; (3) an adverse employment action was taken against him/her; and (4) a causal connection exists between him/her whistle-blowing activity (disclosure or objection) and the adverse employment action.
Many courts have supported the principle that employees who complain of violations of law or public policy while acting within their job duties are protected by New Jersey’s whistleblowing laws. Our New Jersey Supreme Court has upheld a whistleblower verdict in favor of a custodian who alleged he was terminated from his school district employer for complaining about broken and clogged toilets and an unlit exit sign, even though raising and correcting such issues fell within his job duties; Our State Supreme Court upheld the whistleblower verdict in favor of a non-tenured industrial arts middle school teacher whose contract was not renewed in retaliation for his complaints about unsatisfactory health and safety conditions in the school’s metal shop; Our New Jersey Supreme Court upheld a whistleblower verdict where the employee, a Director of Environmental Health and Toxicology, alleged that he was terminated for objecting to excessive levels of benzene in gasoline produced and sold by the employer’s subsidiary in Japan. These and other similar cases evidence the liberal approach our highest state court has time and again taken in effectuating CEPA’s goal of protecting employees who act in the public interest. Be mindful that, “the core value embodied in CEPA is that employees courageous enough to object to illegal, fraudulent or harmful activity by their employers in order to protect the public welfare deserve to be shielded from retaliation by their employers.”
If you have suffered retaliation at the hands of your employer for having disclosed, objected to, or refused to engage in conduct of your employer which you reasonably believe violates the law or public policy than you are urged to immediately contact a New Jersey Employment Lawyer at Mashel Law to handle your claim. Don’t delay in doing so for an employee must bring a whistleblower lawsuit in New Jersey no later than one year from the date you suffered retaliation in the form of a termination, suspension, loss of pay or other form of adverse employment action.