Can You Use The Conscientious Employee Protection Act?

As an employee in the State of New Jersey you have the benefit of The Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J. Stat. § 34:19-1. It was enacted in 2007, and since that time ensures that an employee in New Jersey is protected from retaliation on the part of the employer when the employee takes a stand on legal, ethical and moral grounds.

Most people know it as, “the whistleblower act.” Whistleblower is the term that’s been used for decades to describe an employee who makes it know to others, to the government, the police or the press, that certain activities of his or her employer are just not right. While the reported activities on the part of the employer may not break any laws or regulations, they may be fraudulent or deceptive, and therefore cause harm or potential harm in some way.

Overview of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act

The law protects employees who report or threaten to report violations on the part of their employers. It prohibits any retaliatory action against employees who disclose, or threaten to disclose to a supervisor or to the public any activity, policy, or practice of the employer that may be a violation of an established law, rule, or regulation.

The Act also protects employees from being subjected to the political and religious opinions of their employers.,

What You Must Do First

To enjoy protection under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act you must first notify your employer of the, “activity, policy or practice” that violates a “law, rule or regulation.” You must provide notice in writing to your supervisor, and then allow time for your employer to rectify the situation.

Naturally, the communication to management may be slow and the reaction time may be even slower. The law does not specify a time frame for supervisors to communicate or for employers to respond.

It does, however, provide for emergency situations. If you are reasonably certain that one or more supervisors knows about the situation you want to report, and you fear physical harm, you are protected by the Act. You can report the situation to others, outside the company, without fear of retaliation by your employer.

You have one year to take your employer to court if you are fired or otherwise punished for giving notice within the company or publically reporting the matters. Prevailing in a trial may result in the opportunity to get your job back, in the same or a similar position, and collect compensation for lost wages and benefits. Your employer might be required to pay your attorney fees and court costs as well.

The court also has the ability to fine employers. There can be both a civil fine and punitive damages assessed, at the discretion of the trial judge. Civil fines are paid to the government, and punitive damages are paid to the plaintiff, which would be you. Your employer should be aware of these potential fines and damages, making it more likely that you will not be fired or punished whenever you report problems at work.

Being a whistleblower is no longer frowned-upon legally, and your decision to provide written notice of your concerns at work is now protected under New Jersey state law.

John J. Zidziunas & Associates can provide you with expert help in your New Jersey employment law matters and advise and represent you in court. Contact us for a 30-minute consultation at no charge, by email or by calling 973-509-8500.

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