Most US businesses operate with little government oversight as far as day-to-day activities are concerned. For that reason, some illegal and unethical conduct may go unnoticed. That is why lawmakers continue to enact statutes to protect workers or prevent fraud and corruption.
Protection from Retaliation
The New Jersey CEPA (Conscientious Employee Protection Act) whistleblower Act is a statute that punishes employers in New Jersey that retaliate against employees who report a company's illegal activity to a government agency. The employee has to make a complaint in good faith, defined as a reasonable person having reason to believe that their employer has violated the law.
After you expose the company's illegal or unethical activities, your employer may want to threaten you with an ill-motivated transfer, dismissal, suspension, demotion, delayed promotion, and other harsh measures as retaliation.
Note that, at times, your employer may not directly confront you when you react to the company policies. Instead, a supervisor or co-workers become your boss' proxies for retaliation against you.
The CEPA Whistle-blower Act is designed to protect an employee from all forms of consequences when they speak out. The whistle-blower act makes it illegal for an employer or co-worker to take revenge against an employee who discloses or refuses to be part of workplace unlawful and unethical actions.
When Should You Use the New Jersey Whistleblower Act?
You should seek the New Jersey CEPA Whistle-blower Act protection when your employer introduces a policy you reasonably believe:
- Violates the law or a legal regulation
- Is fraudulent or criminal
You can raise your objections or complaints against these illegal or unethical actions to a supervisor or a public body.
What Happens After You File an NJ Whistleblowing Suit?
First, a whistle-blower files a claim in an NJ court. The courts will review the charges and decide whether or not to pursue them and potentially prosecute the case. Once state investigators decide to move forward with your claims, they will determine the damages you are entitled to as mandated by law.
Who Else Is Protected By The New Jersey CEPA Act?
The NJ CEPA Whistleblower Act further protects employees who provide information to or testify before a public body investigating/hearing/inquiring about a possible law violation at a workplace or by a third-party doing business with the employer.
Apart from regular employees, the CEPA also protects nurses, physicians, social workers, psychologists, chiropractors, and other similarly licensed or certified health care professionals who reasonably refuse to participate in workplace activities that undermine patient outcomes.
Examples of Activities to Whistleblow
You can report on anything that you think is illegal , unethical, unsafe or unfair, including:
- Tax evasion
- Safety violations
- Failing to pay overtime wages
- Discriminatory hiring or disciplinary practices
- Sexual harassment
- Company Fraud and Embezzlement
- OSHA Violations
- Health insurance and Medicare Billing Fraud
- Hostile work environments
- Illegal imports or export
Damages Available For a Whistleblower under CEPA
An employee who loses their job for whistleblowing will first get reinstated. The employee may also win compensation covering lost wages, lost employee benefits, and other indirect damages such as emotional distress. The courts may also order the employer to pay the employee's attorney's fees.
Where Should an Employee Learn about the CEPA Whistleblower Act?
All employers must educate their employees about their rights and protections as spelled out under CEPA. The law mandates your boss to display the CEPA Notice where all employees can access it.
The notice should be detailed, written in both Spanish and English or any other language spoken by the majority of the employees. Additionally, a company with ten or more workers must hand a copy of the CEPA Notice to each employee each year.
However, the law doesn't require your employer to obtain a signed confirmation that you have received, reviewed, and understood the CEPA Notice copy.
The best employers usually task some employees to ensure the company policies and practices comply with the statutes such as the CEPA Whistleblowing Act.
The employees given such tasks are also protected by the CEPA to disclose fraudulent or illegal practices by the company or individual employees.
Power to Whistleblowers
Many companies have robust internal reporting processes for unethical or illegal conduct. A whistle-blower can leverage these processes to report suspected misconduct at the workplace and let the company investigate and act accordingly to resolve it to a fitting end. However, if there are no serious efforts to address the issues, you may consider filing a lawsuit with the help of an employment attorney.
Get Help for Difficult Workplace Conditions
If you are suffering retaliation from reporting illegal activity or workplace harassment, an employment attorney may be able to help. Employment attorneys focus on protecting you from discrimination, sexual harassment, wage violations, and more.
The employment attorneys at Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, bring together our knowledge and insight to construct a strong case for our clients and maximize any future settlements. Thanks to our teamwork and extensive familiarity with both state and federal employment laws, we can take on essentially any employment law case for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.