Employees are often frightened to speak out against their boss. When you see your employer break the law, you may feel as if you have no real choice. Even though you know you are doing the right thing by speaking out, you may be concerned you will be punished for reporting the violation. Lawmakers want to protect employees who report violations of the law, and the law does provide some protection for whistleblowers. In New Jersey, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), provides some protection for vulnerable employees who report legal violations at work.
Requirements for CEPA
Employees who are terminated or otherwise punished for reporting illegal activity may have protection under the CEPA. In order to fall under the CEPA, the following conditions must be met.
– There Must be a Violation of a Law or Public Policy
In a recent New Jersey case, an employee was not eligible for legal protection under the CEPA because he was not reporting a violation of law or public policy. The employee in the case had been fired after reporting a violation of the employer’s internal policies and conduct expectations. The court determined that the CEPA protected employees who report a violation of law or public policy, and an internal policy did not merit CEPA protection. The case of Hitesman v. Bridgeway Inc. dba Bridgeway Care Center, Docket No. A-0140-11T3 (Mar. 22, 2013) shows that it is critical that an employee know if the employer is violating a law or just an internal policy in order to be certain that the employee will be protected under the law.
– The Violations Were Reported to Authorities or Internally
An employee can be covered by reporting illegal activity through internal channels. The law recognizes that the employee may find it reasonable to first address potential illegal activity directly with his or her boss prior to alerting outside authorities. The employee may want to make sure the company is aware of the violation prior to alerting authorities. In the case of Khazin v. TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., D.N.J., No. 13-cv-04149, 3/11/14, an employee discovered financial misconduct at his firm. He reported the misconduct to his bosses, and the firm fired him. He did not report the illegal activity to outside regulators until after he was fired. The court permitted him to go forward with his whistleblower claim as he had timely reported the illegal activity internally.
– There Was a Termination or Punishment for Reporting Violations
If you have been disciplined for reporting illegal activities, you need to find out if you are protected by the CEPA. Discipline can include a variety of adverse actions, including a decrease in pay, title, or stature at the company. Each case is unique, and the law is regularly changed through legislative actions and judicial decisions. To determine if you may be protected under the CEPA, call an experienced NJ whistleblower attorney.
Protect Your Rights – Call a NJ Whistleblower Attorney
If you believe you have a whistleblower case, call the experienced NJ whistleblower attorneys at John J. Zidziunas. A free phone consultation will help you determine if you should pursue a lawsuit. Call 973-509-8500 now.
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