New Jersey recognizes the important services whistleblowers provide to the state by reporting their employers’ fraudulent, unethical, or illegal conduct. Without the help of whistleblowers, many instances of fraudulent and illegal conduct committed by employers against the government would go undiscovered. Because of this, New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) protects employees against retaliation when they report their employers or refuse to do something their employers request that they reasonably believe would be illegal. The employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler represent whistleblowers and can help you understand your rights.
CEPA’s Protection Against Retaliation
CEPA is also known as the New Jersey Whistleblower Protection Act. It prohibits retaliation by employers against employees for engaging in protected activities. Activities that are considered protected include refusing to participate in or objecting to something the employee has a reasonable belief would violate the law, is criminal or fraudulent, or would conflict with a public health, safety, or environmental regulation.
This law also protects employees who report or threaten to report the employer’s actions either internally or to a governmental agency when the employee reasonably believes that the activity is fraudulent, criminal, or would otherwise violate a regulatory requirement or law. Employees are also protected against retaliation when they participate in an investigation, testify, or provide information to a public agency that is investigating a potential violation committed by the employer or another business or individual engaged in business with the employer.
Licensed healthcare providers are also protected under this law when they engage in protected activity by refusing to perform or object to an activity that they believe would violate the expected standards of quality patient care.
The following activities are protected under this law:
- Reporting or threatening to report the employer’s legal or regulatory violation
- Reporting or threatening to report the employer’s fraudulent or criminal activity
- Providing information during an investigation by a public body about the employer’s potential legal violation
- Reporting or threatening to report a healthcare employer’s substandard patient care
- Objecting to the employer’s practice or policy when the employee has a reasonable belief that it violates the law, a public policy, or is criminal or fraudulent.
Legal Remedies Under CEPA
Employees who have been retaliated against in violation of CEPA have the following potential remedies available:
- Job reinstatement
- Lost wages
- Lost benefits, commissions, and bonuses
- Attorney’s fees
- Emotional distress damages
- Punitive damages
Other Anti-Retaliation Laws in New Jersey
A number of other laws in New Jersey protect employees against retaliation. For example, if your employer retaliates against you for filing a discrimination complaint or participating in an investigation into discrimination at your workplace, you can file a retaliation claim under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). Similarly, the New Jersey Family Leave Act and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law also prohibit retaliation against employees for exercising their rights. New Jersey also allows people to file wrongful termination claims when an employer’s actions violate public policy.
What to Do if You Are the Victim of Retaliation by Your Employer
If your employer has retaliated against you for engaging in protected activities as defined by CEPA, you will have a deadline of one year to file a CEPA claim in court. You will have the burden of proof to show a relationship between your activities and your employer’s retaliation against you.
It can be difficult for employees to meet this burden of proof because employers will often claim they had legitimate reasons for taking adverse action against the employee rather than the employee’s protected activity. It will be easier to meet your burden of proof if your employer immediately fired you after you filed a complaint with a public body about the employer’s fraudulent practices than if your employer waits and doesn’t fire you until much later and claims an unrelated reason. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler can review what happened and explain the merits of your case and help you to gather evidence to meet your burden of proof.
In some cases, your attorney might recommend that you pursue a retaliation claim under a different state or federal law. Even if you are not protected under CEPA, you might be protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) if you were fired for talking about poor conditions at your job with your coworkers, for example. There are also a number of other federal laws that protect whistleblowers and others who engage in protected activities. Since different state and federal laws have varying statutes of limitation that set deadlines for filing retaliation lawsuits, you should speak with an experienced employment lawyer quickly to learn about your potential rights and legal options.
Contact an Employment Lawyer
If you believe your employer retaliated against you for engaging in protected activities in violation of your employee rights, you should speak with an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler handle all types of employment and whistleblower cases and can provide you with an honest, fair assessment of the viability of your claim. To learn more about the legal options and remedies that might be available to you, contact our firm today for a free case evaluation by calling us at (856) 685-7420.