The Supreme Court of New Jersey issued an opinion in favor of employee-whistleblowers today. In Donelson v. DuPont (June 9, 2011), the Court considered whether, under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), an employee who becomes psychologically disabled due to retaliation by his employer can recover lost wages without proving he was discharged. The Supreme Court ruled, in a narrow vote of 4-2 with 1 abstention, that the employee was not required to show he was fired because CEPA broadly defines retaliation as action short of discharge. Cast in that light, an “adverse employment action” is taken against an employee when the employer targets him for reprisals such as making false accusations of misconduct, giving negative performance reviews, issuing an unwarranted suspension, and requiring pretextual mental-health evaluations. That retaliation by DuPont caused the employee to suffer a mental breakdown that reduced his ability to earn money. In the end, the Supreme Court upheld the jury verdict awarding the employee lost wages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.
June 9, 2011 – Castronovo & McKinney, LLC – Paul Castronovo