Whistleblower laws exist as protection for employees who speak up about illegal or unsafe practices within their company or workplace. The goal is to ensure the physical and moral safety of all workplaces, and to protect those who report anything that doesn’t comply with legal or safety standards.
The whistleblower laws protect employees from retaliation for their reports or testimonies against their employers. Under these protections, no employee may be demoted, fired, or otherwise penalized as a payback measure for speaking out.
Protection for New Jersey Employees
There are different ways for employees to contribute to whistleblowing. Protections are not only limited to those who go public with reports of misconduct, but include various actions and behaviors under the whistleblower umbrella.
The state of New Jersey established the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, otherwise known as CEPA, to protect employees from retaliation for reporting or disclosing information about, testifying against, or refusing to participate in any objectionable practices or behaviors in the workplace.
Reporting or Disclosing Information
If an employee believes that there is a violation of law, safety, or security standards in the workplace, they may freely disclose information to a supervisor or public entity without persecution. They may witness a single act or violation or they may report upon a recurring lapse in standards or judgement in their disclosure.
In business, this could be a report against their own employer, a client or another business relation. Their report may be on a number of topics, including, but not limited to broken rules or regulations, violation of law, fraudulent activity, or gross misconduct. In a medical profession, this could include a report about the improper quality of patient care. The employee might not even go through with making a report, but if they threaten or mention the possibility of a report, they are still covered by the CEPA laws, and cannot be retaliated upon by their employer.
Even if an employee was not the initial whistleblower to start an investigation, he or she may be asked to provide corroborating testimony to an investigation. All employees who testify before a public body or court in an inquiry are also protected by the CEPA.
The same parameters and protections apply to the collaborators or witnesses as they do to the initial whistleblower. No retaliation may befall an individual who offered testimony on illegal activity, broken policy, or lack of standards in the workplace.
Refusal to Participate
An act of exemption is also protected under whistleblower laws to any individual who refuses to participate in illegal or questionable actions in the workplace. Some employers may see such refusal as an act of rebellion and try to retaliate against employees for their objections. However, the CEPA laws protect these employees from any punishment or retaliation as well.
What Defines Whistleblowing?
In order to receive the protections offered by CEPA, an employee must reasonably believe that they were fired, demoted, punished or otherwise retaliated against specifically for their actions in disclosing information against, testifying against, or refusing to participate in their employer’s actions or policies.
All employees claiming whistleblower protection must defend their beliefs that their employers were acting in violation of the law. They must show that they performed a whistleblowing action by either a threat or a report, corroborating testimony, or refusal to take part in reported misconduct. Finally, they must also establish that they received an adverse employment action against them as a direct result of their whistleblowing activity.
How to Receive Whistleblower Protection
In order for an employee to claim whistleblower protection under the CEPA, they must have documented proof of their own report to a supervisor or other public entity that shows that they were the individual who began the investigation against their employer.
Additional protections are available for those who corroborate ongoing investigations in the form of testimony, which can be used to prove their involvement. Exceptions to these requirements exist if an employee can reasonably assert that supervisors were well-aware of the behaviors, making documentation unnecessary.
The state of New Jersey aims to encourage employees to report unethical or illicit activities in the workplace with public interest in mind. If they believe either the public at large is in danger, or employees are subject to unsafe conditions, or if fellow co-workers are being discriminated against, all of these actions require the cooperation of a workforce who feels protected by law. By establishing these protections against retaliation, the hope is that New Jersey workers and the general public will share in safer actions, products and services.
Seek Protection Against Retaliation from Whistleblowing
If you have acted as a whistleblower and have suffered retaliation from your employer as a result, contact our employment attorneys at Castronovo & McKinney to discuss your case. We have extensive experience representing clients in whistleblower cases throughout New Jersey.
We offer a free consultation of your case, during which we will gather information from you about your experience in order to best guide you through your next steps. When you allow us to serve you as counsel, we will then work to build a thorough picture of the misconduct you witnessed. We will investigate the actions and behaviors in your workplace and gather as much evidence as possible to corroborate your claims. We will combine your whistleblowing activities with your adverse employment actions to show that one was the direct cause of the other.
Once all information is gathered, we will present your claims to your employer first, in an attempt to come to an agreement of terms. If that initial approach is unsatisfactory, we will bring your case to court. Do not let your job security and your livelihood fall victim to standing up for what is right. Allow us to represent you to get you all of the whistleblower protections you deserve.