You may be familiar with federal whistleblower protections – they are the laws that shelter those who report wrongdoing against the government from retaliation. But did you know that the state of New Jersey has its own version of these laws? New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (EPA) was written to provide specific, broad protections for employees within the state from retaliation for having spoken up about or objecting to doing something that they believed illegal.
Retaliation is an all-too-frequent occurrence when an employee tells officials about wrongdoing on the part of their employer. Employees often find themselves being fired, demoted, or in some other way treated badly as a result of having taken appropriate and lawful actions. Some of these actions are subtle: an employee may find themselves unable to get assigned to preferable work shifts or transferred to less desirable job sites. They may find themselves passed over for promotion or with their wages cut. Other actions are overt and even explicit. No matter what form the retaliation takes, when an employee takes actions that are considered “protected,” retaliation is specifically prohibited.
Under CEPA any employee that objects to or refuses to participate in activities that they believe violate laws or regulations, are fraudulent or criminal or incompatible with a legal requirement relating to public health, safety, welfare or the protection of the environment are protected. So too are those who indicate that they are going to report such activities, or who actually do. If an employee testified against their employer or provides information about potential violations of the law by their employer or somebody who does business with their employer, CEPA protects them too.
Perhaps most importantly, if employees find themselves being mistreated according to the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, they can seek remedies including restoration of their previous standing or wages, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages and legal fees.
If you have reported an illegal activity by a New Jersey employer, or refused to engage in illegal activities and have since found yourself being mistreated or retaliated against, we can help. Contact us today to set up an appointment to discuss your situation and learn about your rights.