New Jersey has one of the strongest laws against whistleblower retaliation in the United States. The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) protects employees from whistleblower retaliation.
There are a number of different ways that an employee can be considered a whistleblower. An employee who discloses to an agency, like the Department of Labor, an illegal practice by the employer is considered a whistleblower. Disclosure to an agency is not the only way to become a whistleblower. Employees who merely threaten to disclose illegal acts can be considered whistleblowers. Employees who complain to a supervisor about illegality or a violation of public policy can also be considered to be whistleblowers.
It is not necessary that the employer’s actions actually violate the law. If there is a direct connection between the employee complaint and a law, regulation, or public policy, the complaint may still be considered protected whistleblowing.
To win a whistleblower retaliation case, it is very important that the employee specifically identify the law, regulation or public policy that has been allegedly violated. Courts can sometimes dismiss whistleblower retaliation cases if the employee does not identify the law, regulation, or public policy that was allegedly violated.
Once an employee establishes that he or she complained about an employer’s violation, the employee must show that he or she was the subject of retaliation. The strongest cases involve clear adverse employment actions. Adverse employment actions are changes to the terms and conditions of employment.
The most drastic adverse employment action is job termination. However, other actions will also qualify. These include job suspension, discipline, or demotion. Severe or frequent harassment can also constitute an adverse employment action. Sometimes, a workplace becomes so hostile that it forces an employee to resign or to be constructively terminated.
An employee must also prove that the employer intended to retaliate for the whistleblowing activity. Sometimes, there are e-mails or written materials that reflect the employer’s intent to retaliate. In other instances, the closeness in time between the whistleblowing event and the retaliation helps to prove intent. The Court will generally consider all circumstances in evaluating an employer’s intent.
An employee who successfully proves whistleblower retaliation can become entitled to lost wages, emotional distress damages, attorneys fees and costs, and punitive damages.
Mr. Wronko is an experienced NJ whistleblower attorney. For instance, he successfully resolved a claim in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey in a case in New Jersey Superior Court, Essex County for $100,000. If you would like an initial telephone consultation on a potential whistleblower retaliation claim, please call (973) 360-1001.