You’re worried that something at work might be improper or illegal. You know you’re supposed to be protected from retaliation, but do you know how the law actually works and what it protects? In New Jersey, workers who have a reasonable belief that an employer has committed or allowed others to commit illegal acts are protected under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), also known as the ‘Whistleblower Act’. New Jersey requires any company that has ten or more employees to post a copy of these protections on its premises.
Whistleblower Cases Under NJ Law
You are a whistleblower if you are reporting illegal activity by your employer or if your employer has permitted illegal activity by others. Recent successful New Jersey cases have included a Hudson County case where a lab technician was disciplined multiple times after he reported his employer for staffing and management discrepancies, a complaint about shareholder fraud, and even a case where a retail store employee was terminated after reporting a customer to child protective services.
Start with Your Employer
Before you disclose to a public body or agency, you must first disclose your concerns to a supervisor, so that your employer has an opportunity to correct or remedy the situation. There is one very important exception to this. If you are reasonably certain, supervisors must already be aware of the situation. If you have a reasonable fear that disclosure to a supervisor will result in imminent physical harm, you do not have to first make the disclosure to supervisors. An independent contractor also has the protections of an “employee” as a whistleblower.
What Happens if Your Employer Retaliates?
New Jersey’s whistleblower statute (CEPA) gives you twelve months to file a complaint with the court system. If you prevail, the court may order your employer to reinstate you to your job, money damages, back pay for lost salary, and punitive damages. If your employer commits a crime in retaliation, you should also report the matter to either the police or the district attorney. The law also provides reasonable attorney’s fees to cover the cost of bringing a successful claim.
How You Are Protected?
As long as you have a reasonable belief that your claims are true at the time you made them, you are protected by the act. They do not have to later be proven. The protections begin from the moment you have made your complaint or inquiry either to a supervisor or a government agency. If you have been a whistleblower, your employer is legally forbidden to retaliate. You may not be terminated, disciplined, isolated, given non-preferential duties, or denied opportunities for advancement if retaliation is part of your employer’s motive.
Incentives to Whistleblowers
Under the New Jersey False Claims Act, individuals may file private actions against employers for violating the law and may be entitled to a percentage of whatever the government recovers. If you make a claim under the False Claims Act, you are protected by CEPA as a whistleblower.
Consult with an Experienced Whistleblower Attorney in NJ Before Taking Action
While CEPA protects you as a whistleblower, the best way to protect yourself is to first consult with someone who knows the law, knows the process, and knows how to protect you and makes your protection his/her priority. John J. Zidziunas & Associates has a team of Newark whistleblower attorneys available to confidentially review your case. For further information, call 973-509-8500, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://employmentdiscrimination.com/.
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