A legal question recently presented to the New Jersey Superior Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed by a New Jersey based Defendant Corporation for answering was whether its former Plaintiff employee who worked remotely for it from her home in North Carolina was protected from an alleged unlawful retaliatory discharge in violation of New Jersey’s whistleblower law entitled the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). In answering this question in the affirmative by denying Defendant’s motion, the Superior Court accepted Plaintiff’s argument that CEPA applied to the Plaintiff because based on the facts pled in the Complaint, New Jersey had a substantial relationship to the parties and facts at issue. The Plaintiff in this case is represented by Mashel Law, L.L.C. (Mashel Law).
Plaintiff worked from her home in North Carolina for the Defendants as its Human Resources Manager. As such, she was tasked with applying New Jersey labor and employment laws when drafting an employee handbook for the Defendant. Plaintiff was responsible for ensuring Defendant complied with New Jersey laws. In her role as Human Resources Manager, Plaintiff repeatedly complained to her superiors about how the Defendant Corporation was violating the New Jersey Earned Sick Leave law and the New Jersey Secure Choice Savings Program Act by failing to have a policy in place paying their New Jersey employees paid sick time. Plaintiff alleges in this lawsuit that she was wrongfully discharged by the Defendant (and individual decisionmakers) for disclosing and objecting about her reasonable belief that the Defendant was violating New Jersey law by engaging in these alleged unlawful practices.
In arguing for dismissal of Plaintiff’s Complaint, the Defendant claimed the fact that the Plaintiff worked for it from North Carolina meant that as a matter of law she could not avail herself of New Jersey’s CEPA law. In opposition, Mashel Law argued, inter. alia., that even though the New Jersey Supreme Court had yet to determine whether an out-of-state remote worker who worked for a New Jersey-based company is protected by New Jersey’s employment laws, the New Jersey Appellate Division in Halliday v. Bioreference Labs, 2022 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1394 *32 (App. Div. August 3, 2022) had explicitly stated the New Jersey Legislature did not intend to limit CEPA’s protections to only employees who live and work in New Jersey. Notably, in Halliday, a CEPA case, the Plaintiff employee worked for a New Jersey corporation from a job site located in Houston, Texas. Our Appellate Division in reversing a dismissal below and remanding for further factfinding found the trial level court had court failed to sufficiently analyze all factors relevant to determining if New Jersey had a substantial relationship to the parties and facts at issue.
On behalf of their Plaintiff client, Mashel Law also argued that the New Jersey Appellate Division decision in Calabotta v. Phibro Animal Health Corp., 460 N.J. Super. 38 (App. Div. 2019) dictated application of New Jersey’s CEPA law to protect their client. The issue presented in Calabotta was whether the trial court erred in dismissing the Illinois resident’s action against the plaintiff’s New Jersey-based former employer for wrongful discharge and “associational” discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the Calabotta court explicitly acknowledged that if a “plaintiff can establish that the company’s decision to fire him was made or centered in New Jersey, that would be a counterweight on the New Jersey side of the scale.” Id. at 73. The Calabotta court expressly recognized that its holding, which was rendered prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, had “practical significance” as “employees and their supervisors more often perform their tasks remotely in multiple locations rather than in a traditional common physical location” and “[t]he ‘office’ where an individual works” has become “an elusive or non-existent concept these days.” Id. at 74.
Mashel Law demonstrated to the motion court that there were many facts establishing that notwithstanding Plaintiff worked from an out of state jurisdiction, the relevant facts well established New Jersey’s substantial relationship to the parties in this whistleblowing case including, but not limited to, the fact that: (a) The Corporate defendant is a New Jersey headquartered company, (b) the individual party defendants are New Jersey residents who physically worked for Defendant Corporation in New Jersey during all times relevant to this case, and (c) Defendant Corporation deducted New Jersey taxes, New Jersey disability insurance and New Jersey unemployment insurance from Plaintiff’s pay. Equally, if not most important, the Defendants directed their unlawful retaliation against Plaintiff from New Jersey. Finally, because CEPA was intended to provide broad protections against employer retaliation for employees acting within the public interest and is deemed remedial legislation which requires courts to liberally construe to effectuate its important societal goals, there should be no doubting that CEPA governs this lawsuit.
Do not hesitate to call the attorneys at Mashel Law at (732) 536-6161 or fill out the contact form on this page for immediate help if your employer retaliates against you for disclosing or objecting to activities you reasonably believe violate the law, are fraudulent or are contrary to public health and safety. At Mashel Law, located in Marlboro, New Jersey, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of employees.