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New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Act

New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Act (CEPA) is, at its essence, a broad law providing whistleblower protection. The Act provides a shield against retaliation for employees who have voiced their objections to something occurring in the workplace that they believe to be in violation of the law. A retaliatory action may be the firing, demotion, or harassment of the employee or perhaps the employee was passed over for a promotion as a result of their objections to the illegal activities. Whatever form the retaliatory action took, CEPA provides protection and remedies for an employee wrongfully suffering due to his or her whistleblower activities.

New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Act

CEPA was enacted in 1986 by the New Jersey State Legislature and made New Jersey a historic leader in providing unprecedented pro-employee whistleblower protection. At the time CEPA was passed, it was considered to be the most comprehensive whistleblower statute in the United States. The law was passed with the express purpose of protecting whistleblower activities that were intended to benefit the general well-being of the public by encouraging employees to report the unlawful misconduct of employers. The protection for whistleblower activities under CEPA extends to those employees working in the public or private sector, as well as those working as independent contractors.

As CEPA prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who engaged in a protected activity, it is important to understand what is exactly considered to be a protected activity in the first place. A protected activity under CEPA includes an employee objecting to or refusing to participate in an activity that the employee believes to be in violation of the law, fraudulent, or incompatible with a legal requirement pertaining to public health and safety or the protection of the environment. CEPA also shields against employer retaliation in situations where an employee has provided information or agreed to testify concerning potential illegal activity the employer may be engaging in.

The main source of protection offered by CEPA comes in the form of making a wide range of remedies available to employees who have suffered retaliatory action due to engaging in protected whistleblower activities. Should an employee suffer a negative employment action as a result of being a whistleblower, CEPA will provide an appropriate remedy. In fact, the New Jersey Supreme Court held in Young v. Schering Corp. that CEPA was in fact remedial legislation and should be liberally construed. In fact, the way the CEPA remedial provisions are structured were held to be consistent with individual liability. The legislature assured that all remedies that would be available in a common-law tort action are available to plaintiffs prevailing in an action pursuant to CEPA protections. In other words, a New Jersey employee who has suffered an adverse employment action in retaliation for objecting to or disclosing the unlawful activities of an employer may recover such things as compensatory damages as well as punitive damages and attorney fees.

Employment Law Attorneys

Have you suffered an adverse employment action as a result of voicing concerns over the potentially illegal activities of your employer? Do not delay in talking to the trusted employment law attorneys at Castronovo & McKinney. Contact us today.