The law protects employees who object, report, or refuse to partake in illegal or fraudulent acts. New Jersey has enacted specific laws that protect whistleblowers, such as the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).
Unfortunately, “doing the right thing” by blowing the whistle on your employer or co-workers often leads to retaliation. In New Jersey, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee on the grounds that they objected to, reported, or refused to participate in their employer’s unlawful conduct. Retaliation can include, but is not limited to, termination, demotion, or suspension. Those who suffer this type of retaliation may be entitled to reinstatement, as well as compensation for back pay, front pay, pain and suffering, interest, attorneys’ fees, court costs, and in some cases, punitive damages.
Proving a CEPA Claim
To prevail on a CEPA retaliation claim, an employee must be able to demonstrate several factors.
First, they must be able to prove that they reasonably believed their employer’s conduct was unlawful. That means that even if the employee was wrong, and their employer was acting within the bounds of the law, if their belief that their employer was breaking the law was reasonable, they cannot be terminated.
The second factor that must be present is the fact that that the employee engaged in whistleblowing activity. This could mean that they reported their employer, threatened to report them, objected or that they refused to participate in the questionable conduct.
Finally, one must prove that they suffered some type of adverse employment action as a result of blowing the whistle, such as termination, demotion, suspension, or transfer. They must be able to show that the adverse action occurred at least in part because of their whistleblowing, and not for some other reason not related to the whistleblowing.
There are also additional protections for certain employees that an experienced CEPA lawyer can explain. For example, health professionals cannot be discharged for objecting to policies or practices that constitute poor patient care. There are also specialized rules for reporting discrimination, violations of the New Jersey Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), minimum wage violations, exercising one’s rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, reporting harassment or bullying in schools, and wage discrimination, among other protections.
Filing a CEPA Action
In general, an employee can file a CEPA claim within one year of the retaliatory action. If no action is taken before this time, the lawsuit will likely be barred, and the whistleblower will have forfeited their legal right to recourse.
An experienced Atlantic County employment lawyer can help you determine where to file a claim and how.
If you believe you have been subjected to retaliation at work, it is important to take action as soon as possible to avoid forfeiting your rights under the applicable statute of limitations. Our legislature has enacted laws to protect whistleblowers and to encourage employees to step forward and report wrongdoing. If you feel that your employer has taken adverse employment actions against you because you did the right thing and reported unlawful activity, you may have a viable CEPA claim.
Atlantic County Employment Lawyers at Levine Staller Advocate for Whistleblowers
Contact the knowledgeable Atlantic County employment lawyers at Levine, Staller, Sklar, Chan & Brown, P.A. today, by calling us at 609-348-1300 or contact us online for a free consultation. From our office in Atlantic City, we advise clients throughout Atlantic County, Cape May County, and Ocean County, New Jersey.