When you realized your employer was breaking the law, you decided you had to do something about it. You reported the activity, and now you find that you are paying the price for speaking out. However, as a whistleblower in New Jersey, you have legal protections to prevent employer retaliation. In fact, New Jersey has some of the strongest protections for whistleblowers in the country, but you will need an employment lawyer to help you assert your right to stop employer retaliation and undo the harm that has been done.
New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Reporting Act (CEPA)
Known as the “Whistleblower Act,” New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Reporting Act (CEPA) is the reason employee protections are so strong in New Jersey. Employers are prohibited from taking adverse action against a worker who does any of the following:
- Discloses to a supervisor or enforcement agency activity they believe violates the law or, in the case of healthcare providers, compromises quality care
- Testifies in court or cooperates with investigators about violations of laws, rules, or regulations, or quality of patient care
- Reveals the employer’s deception of shareholders, clients, patients, customers, employees, former employees, or retirees
- Objects to or refuses to participate in an activity they believe to be illegal, substandard, fraudulent, or in violation of public health, safety, and welfare.
The whistleblower does not have to prove that the employer broke the law, but they do have to show that it was reasonable for them to believe that a law was being broken or that patients were put at risk. Examples of the types of employer actions that can lead to reporting by an employee include falsifying financial records, engaging in shareholder fraud, making faulty products, violating anti-discrimination or wage & hour laws, breaking health and safety regulations, or tax fraud. An experienced employment lawyer can help a worker who has suffered adverse action after reporting an employer.
Typical Acts of Retaliation
The ultimate goal of CEPA is not to pressure employees to police their employers. Instead, it was enacted to protect workers from employer retaliation when they report what they believe to be illegal activity. Types of hostile actions that whistleblowers may experience include the following:
- Formal reprimand
- Demotion or unwanted reassignment
- Harassment or threats
- Cut in pay or loss of benefits
- Denial of promotion
- Unjustified negative evaluations or references
If the employee believes that an adverse action was taken against them because they reported illegal activity, they might have a whistleblower retaliation claim.
Potential Damages in a Whistleblower Retaliation Claim
You do not have to stand for mistreatment or abuse from a supervisor, manager, or executive at your company because you spoke up. Working with employee rights attorney Frank Steinberg, you can build a case for whistleblower retaliation that does the following:
- Shows that you reasonably believed that your employer violated the law or safety standards
- Documents that you reported the violation to someone inside the company or to an outside authority
- Proves that your employer took an adverse or hostile employment action against you in response to your whistleblower activity
A successful whistleblower retaliation claim can result in damages being awarded to you that include lost wages, the value of lost benefits, and—in cases of egregious behavior by the employer—punitive damages. You might also argue for reinstatement of employment, reassignment, or an earned promotion or bonus.
How a New Jersey Employment Lawyer Can Help
Your commitment to upholding the law and protecting the public should be rewarded, not punished. If you were fired or bullied for standing up and doing the right thing, you can take action against your employer with the help of our experienced whistleblower retaliation legal team. Under CEPA, you only have one year from the date of the adverse employment action to file a whistleblower retaliation claim. Contact our Somerville office to learn more about how we can help. We stand up for New Jersey workers.