Retaliation & Whistleblowing
Retaliation and Whistleblowing: New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA)
New Jersey has some of the strictest laws in the nation prohibiting retaliation against “whistleblowers” — employees who report illegal activity by their employers or who object to, or refuse to participate in, their employers’ illegal activity.
The most well-known of the “anti-retaliation” laws is the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, also referred to as CEPA. It prohibits employers from disciplining, demoting, or terminating an employee because he or she has “blown the whistle” by (1) bringing to light employer conduct that may be illegal or fraudulent; (2) cooperating in a public body’s (local, state, or federal) investigation into the employer’s conduct; or (3) refusing to go along with employer conduct that may be illegal or that may pose a threat to the public health, safety or welfare.
Unfortunately, of late, New Jersey employers and their attorneys have been able to mount an assault in the courts, with some success, on the scope of the protections afforded by CEPA. Their key attack has been to argue that if an employee is “only doing his job,” when he or she blows the whistle on some safety violation or law-breaking by his employer, CEPA should not apply. Whether that defense will continue to have legs will soon be decided in the case of Lippmann v. Ethicon, Inc., which will be heard by the New Jersey Supreme Court sometime in 2015. The New Jersey chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association, in which this firm is an active member, has filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the New Jersey Supreme Court arguing that it should do away with this narrowing of CEPA. We will keep you posted on our blogs of the decision when it comes down.
In addition to CEPA, New Jersey’s other major law against retaliation is a part of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. That law protects employees who have complained about workplace discrimination against themselves or others, or who have filed a complaint with, or testified before, one of the state or federal agencies responsible for investigating discrimination. It is important to understand that, as long as you have a “reasonable belief” that you have been discriminated against, you can successfully win a retaliation case, even if you ultimately can’t prove that discrimination actually occurred.
Whistleblower cases are complicated and treacherous for the unwary. Employers rely on any number of legal strategies in their efforts to defeat these claims.
Attorneys Richard Schall and Patricia Barasch have more than 45 years combined experience representing New Jersey employees in complex employment cases, including cases arising under CEPA and the anti-retaliation provisions of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. We enjoy the challenge of tackling the most difficult legal issues, taking on the biggest corporations in New Jersey, and standing up for the rights of our clients to be free from discrimination or retaliation in the workplace.
If you believe you have been retaliated against in violation of CEPA or the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, please contact our firm by completing the on-line Questionnaire.
* In every year since 2014, the law firm of Schall & Barasch has been included in the Tier 1 list of best law firms in New Jersey practicing in the field of employment law on behalf of individuals. This list is compiled by U.S. News & World Report. A description of the selection methodology can be found at www.bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.
** The methodology for the Avvo ratings of Richard Schall and Patricia Barasch can be found at www.avvo.com/support/avvo_rating.
*** In every year since 2009, Richard Schall has been chosen to be included on the list of Best Lawyers in New Jersey practicing in the field of labor and employment law. The Best Lawyers list is issued by Best Lawyers International. A description of the selection methodology can be found at www.bestlawyers.com/about/MethodologyBasic.aspx.
**** In every year since 2005, both Patricia Barasch and Richard Schall have been chosen to be included on the list of Super Lawyers in New Jersey practicing in the field of employment law on behalf of plaintiffs. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thomson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found at www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html.
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