Whistleblower laws are in place to protect employees from employer retaliation for reporting unlawful practices or unsafe workplaces. A person becomes a “whistleblower” when he or she takes action against illegal company practices, failing to fulfill safety standards, or violating state or federal regulations. Becoming a whistleblower presents an inevitable risk. However, you cannot be terminated, demoted, or penalized in any way by an employer for speaking up or refusing to participate in illegal or unsafe company conduct.
New Jersey has a broad whistleblower protection law entitled the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, also known as CEPA. This law prohibits all public and private employers, regardless of their size, from retaliating against an employee for taking any number of actions. Whistleblowing encompasses more than simply publicizing a company’s unlawful practices. It can take many forms, including reporting violations to state authorities, disclosing information to investigators, testifying against an employer, and refusing to participate in improper workplace conduct.
According to CEPA, New Jersey employees are protected against retaliation if they take any of the following actions:
Both current and former employees are permitted to file claims under CEPA in New Jersey courts. CEPA also protects some independent contractors, not just employees. The New Jersey Supreme Court has indicated in two cases—Stomel v. City of Camden, 192 N.J. 137 (2007) and D’Annunzio v. Prudential Insurance Company of America, 192 N.J. 110 (2007)—that many employees who are considered to be independent contractors in other contexts may be considered to be employees under CEPA in the context of whistleblower claims.
New Jersey law permits employees to file claims seeking damages and other relief if their employer retaliates against them for “blowing the whistle” on illegal company activities. To prevail in a CEPA claim against your employer, you must prove that you reasonably believed that the employer’s conduct violated either a law, rule, regulation, or clear public policy. Note that you need to have been correct in your belief that the employer was violating the law to receive whistleblower protection under CEPA. You must only have had an “objectively reasonable belief” that the company was violating laws or standards, even if that reasonable belief was mistaken.
A successful claim for damages in a whistleblower case also requires evidence that you performed a “whistle-blowing activity,” meaning that you reported or threatened to report company misconduct, provided testimony in a case against your employer, or refused to participate in the type of behavior reported. Lastly, in order to win an employment retaliation case, the claimant must demonstrate that the employer took an adverse employment action, such as a demotion, termination, retaliatory transfer, reduction in pay, or the like, against the employee and a connection exists between the “whistle-blowing activity” and that adverse employment action.
If you have become a whistleblower and have been subject to retaliation from your employer as a result, it is critical to understand the protections guaranteed to you under the law and what you can do to if your employee protections under CEPA have been violated. For more information and to discuss your unique case, contact the employment attorneys at our firm today. We have represented numerous clients with whistleblower claims and will work tirelessly to achieve the best outcome, whether it be through an agreement with your employer or litigating your case in court.
Whistleblower & Retaliation Specialists