New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act
The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J. Stat. § 34:19-1 (CEPA), prohibits any retaliatory action against an employer because the employee discloses, or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or to a public entity any activity, policy or practice of the employer that is a violation of a law, or a rule or regulation.
The New Jersey CEPA explicitly references violations involving deception or misrepresentation to shareholders, investors, clients, patients, customers, employees, former employees, retirees or pensioners of the employer, or any governmental entity. The law also applies when an employee who is a licensed or certified health care professional discloses information that the employee reasonably believes constitutes improper quality of patient care.
The New Jersey CEPA also provides protection for employees who report any fraudulent or criminal conduct, including any activity; policy or practice which the employee reasonably believes may defraud any shareholders, investors, clients, patients, customers, employees, former employees, retirees or pensioners of the employer or any governmental entity.
Protection is also provided to employees who provide information or testify before any public body conducting an investigation, hearing or inquiry into any violation of law and employees who refuse to participate in any activity, policy or practice which the employee reasonably believes is in violation of a law, a rule or regulation or constitutes fraudulent or criminal conduct or which is incompatible with a clear mandate of public policy concerning public health, safety, welfare or the environment.
The law has a broad definition of the term, employer, which includes any individual, partnership, association, corporation, person or group of persons, acting directly or indirectly on behalf of or in the interest of an employer and includes all state, county or municipality government, a school district, special district, authority, commission, or board. CEPA defines an employee as any individual who performs services for and under the control and direction of an employer for wages or other remuneration.
Retaliatory action under New Jersey CEPA is defined as discharge, suspension or demotion of an employee, or any other adverse employment action taken against an employee with regard to the terms and conditions of employment. The reporting of improper quality of patient care, which is also protected as retaliatory activity, includes patient care or any practice, procedure, action or failure to act of an employer that is a health care provider which violates a law, rule, regulation or any professional code of ethics. The law also prohibits retaliation against any employee who makes a good faith report, verbally or in writing, of a violation, or suspected violation which means that an employer cannot discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize or threaten to discharge an employee who makes a good-faith report.
A critical part of New Jersey CEPA is the written notice requirement. In order for there to be protection against retaliatory action pertaining to disclosure to a public body, the employee must have brought the matter to the attention of a supervisor of the employee by written notice and provided the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the activity, policy or practice. However, disclosure shall not be required where the employee is reasonably certain that the activity, policy or practice is known to one or more supervisors of the employer or where the employee reasonably fears physical harm as a result of the disclosure provided the situation is emergency in nature.
Employees may file a civil lawsuit against the employer under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act within one year of the retaliatory action against the employee. Employees are entitled to a jury trial and damages including reinstatement to the same or similar job, reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights, compensation for all lost wages, benefits, compensatory damages, punitive damages reasonable costs, and attorneys' fees.
We represent whistleblower employees who are retaliated against by their employers in violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act. Call Abramson Employment Law at 267-470-4742 or contact us online to discuss your legal options.