NJ Whistleblower Law – It’s Not Whistleblowing If You Report Legal Violations as Part of Your Job Duties

It is a fine line: if you report illegal or fraudulent conduct but making that report is part of your job, are you protected by New Jersey’s whistleblower law?  A New Jersey appellate court answered, No.  See White v. Starbucks Corp. (N.J.Super. App.Div. December 9, 2011).  The appellate court applied existing case law to the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) – New Jersey’s whistleblower law – in drawing this conclusion.  In White, a district manager for Starbucks alleged that she blew the whistle when she reported to her bosses several problems in the Starbucks stores under her supervision: missing merchandise, a lack of thermometers in two stores, unsanitary conditions, alcohol consumption by employees on the job, a physical attack of a customer, after-hours sex parties, and the electronic transmittal of a pornographic photograph by an employee. The court dismissed her CEPA claim because, “Her job was to ensure that these alleged violations were addressed and corrected.”  Since it was her job, rather than a conscientious act to protect the public, she did not engage in protected activity under CEPA.

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