What Is The Conscientious Employee Protection Act?

What Is The Conscientious Employee Protection Act

Whistleblowers are protected in New Jersey under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act. This law prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against workers who report them for engaging in illegal activities or for behaving in ways that run contrary to public policy. Employers may also not retaliate against workers who participate in investigations of these types of complaints. The employment law attorneys at Swartz Swidler may help whistleblowers who have been retaliated against by their employers to recover damages.

What are the elements of a New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act claim?

The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act is found at NJSA 34:19-1 through NJSA 34:19-8. It prohibits private and public employers from engaging in retaliation against workers who refuse to participate in, object to or disclose actions that the workers reasonably believe to be in violation of public policy or illegal. This law prohibits employers from retaliation against a worker based on any of the following:

  • The worker either threatens to disclose or discloses to a public body or a supervisor the employer’s practice, policy or activity that the worker believes is illegal, criminal or fraudulent.
  • The worker testifies before or gives information to an investigatory body about a violation of the law.
  • The worker refuses to participate in or objects to an activity, practice or policy that the employee believes violates the law, is criminal or fraudulent or that violates public policy.

These prohibitions may be found in NJSA 34:19-3 and 34:19-2.

In order to present a prima facie case under this law, the plaintiff must present evidence showing that he or she had a reasonable belief that the employer’s actions violated a law or public policy. He or she must also show that the employee’s action was whistleblowing as described under the CEPA. The employee must demonstrate that the employer took an adverse employment action against the worker and that a causal relationship existed between the whistleblowing and that negative job action. Both current and former employees are allowed to file civil actions under this law under any New Jersey court that has jurisdiction to hear the case.

Damages

Employees may recover a number of different types of damages under the CEPA, including injunctive orders, job reinstatement, emotional distress damages, reinstatement of seniority and fringe benefits, lost wages and benefits, reasonable costs, attorney fees and punitive damages. Contact an experienced lawyer at Swartz Swidler for help if you were retaliated against for engaging in whistleblowing against your employer.