New Jersey has clear and strong legal protections for employees who act as a whistleblower. Several federal laws also protect employees who speak out against their employer for unlawful activities. The bottom line is that retaliation against an employee for whistleblowing is illegal in New Jersey.
One of New Jersey’s most stringent laws that protect whistleblowers is its first, enacted in 1986: the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).
CEPA is one of the most encompassing whistleblower protection laws in the United States. It makes it illegal for an employer to terminate an employee who refuses or opposes participation in the employer’s unlawful or improper workplace activities.
In addition, the New Jersey anti-retaliation statute was enacted to discourage employers from engaging in illegal or unethical business behavior in conducting business. It assesses stiff penalties for employers who violate the law.
What are Common Whistleblower Complaints?
There are thousands of reasons why an employee may blow the whistle on employer activities they believe are illegal or fraudulent. These can include the following activities:
- Sexual harassment
- Gender discrimination
- Race or religious discrimination
- Workplace violence
- Theft of intellectual property
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations for unsafe or unsanitary conditions
- Fraudulent billing practices
- Patient abuse or improper care in medical settings
- Noncompliance with industry-specific regulations or state or federal laws
Who is Considered a Whistleblower?
Under CEPA, an employee could be considered a whistleblower if they:
- Disclose or threaten to disclose to a supervisor or public body an employer activity, policy, or practice that the employee reasonably believes:
- Violates a law, rule, or regulation or is fraudulent or criminal.
- Constitutes improper patient care if the employee is a licensed or certified health care professional.
- Provide information to or testify before a public body conducting an inquiry, investigation, or hearing into employer violation of the law.
- Object to or refuse to participate in an employer policy, activity, or practice the employee reasonably believes violates a law or is fraudulent, criminal, and incompatible with government policy concerning public health, safety, and welfare or protection of the environment.
An employee who speaks out is not required to prove that a law, rule, regulation, or mandated public policy was or would be violated if their disclosures are true. Instead, they must verify facts supporting a reasonable belief that there was a violation.
Whistleblowing and Workplace Discrimination
In some situations, the employee’s whistleblowing complaint may be about workplace discrimination, which is also illegal. New Jersey law protects these employees as well.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) protects employees who oppose practices or acts considered discriminatory under NJLAD. For example, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee who:
- Complains or protests against workplace discrimination.
- Files a formal complaint, testifies, or assists in any proceeding under the discrimination law.
- Discusses or discloses information about wages or wage discrimination with another employee, lawyer, or governmental agency; this refers to the New Jersey Equal Pay Act.
Other New Jersey laws protect whistleblowers, but the above are the most common and far reaching.
A whistleblower lawyer will know how to best proceed with an employee claim.
What is Employer Retaliation?
Although there is not an exhaustive list of adverse employment actions against an employee who blows the whistle, examples of employer retaliation include the following:
- Reduced salary or benefits
- Eliminated benefits
- Refusal to promote
- Negative performance reviews that are not true or accurate
- Disciplinary actions
These actions may be a one-time retaliation or a series of events over time. Regardless, if they happen, the employee should contact a whistleblower lawyer.
South Jersey Whistleblower Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC, Protect Employees Who Speak Out
No employee should be subjected to retaliation from their employer if they speak out against business practices that are illegal or fraudulent. The South Jersey whistleblower lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC, will advise you of your rights during a free consultation. We will discuss the situation with you and lay out your best legal options. Call us today at 856-235-7075 or contact us online for a free consultation. With office locations in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients from Cherry Hill, Burlington County, Camden County, and throughout South Jersey.