As a New Jersey employer, you are barred from retaliating against an employee who reports illegal workplace activities. If you terminated an employee and they sue you for wrongful termination, claiming that their actions are protected under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), you should consult with an attorney to confirm their claim. Not every worker who reports illegal activity is considered a whistleblower under the law.
What Must Be Established to Claim Wrongful Termination
Just because someone was fired after complaining to an employer or reporting actions to an outside agency doesn’t make the employee a protected whistleblower. To make a claim under CEPA, the employee must establish the following:
- They objected to or refused to participate in an activity, policy, or practice that they believed violated the law, public policy, or was fraudulent or criminal.
- They “blew the whistle” by disclosing or threatening to disclose the violation to a supervisor or public body or by providing information or testifying before a public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry into the violation.
- An adverse employment action—such as termination or demotion—was taken against them.
- There is a causal connection between the whistleblowing activity and the adverse employment action. In other words, it is clear that the worker was fired because of their complaint.
If the employee’s complaint is about actions that were primarily breaches of contract or violations of company policy and not a violation of the law, it is not a CEPA violation. Likewise, if you have documentation showing the legal reasons for the employee’s termination, you can refute the causal connection argument.
Turn to a Trusted Employment Litigation Firm
Attorney Frank Steinberg understands CEPA and whistleblower protections from both sides. If a former employee is claiming to be a whistleblower and suing you for wrongful termination, and you believe the charges are unjustified, give our office a call to talk about the details. New Jersey employment laws strongly favor workers, but that doesn’t mean every disgruntled former employee has a valid legal claim against an employer. Protect your rights by getting knowledgeable advice from our experienced team. Fill out our online contact form or call us at 908-685-0600 to get started.