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Out-of-state case shows importance of knowing whistleblowing laws

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2014 | Employee Rights |

Many people here in New Jersey know that there are employment laws that protect a person from wrongful termination. In the event that an employer fires a worker for exercising their employee rights, that employee does have the right to file a complaint against their employer. It’s worth noting though that not all cases result in compensation, even if you feel like your rights were violated.

We can show this by using a case out of Idaho. Even though employment laws may differ between our two states, our laws regarding whistleblower protection are not dissimilar. But as this case will show, compensation may not be awarded if the laws do not apply to your particular situation.

For those of our Burlington County readers who may be unfamiliar with the case, a head maintenance worker of a hospital complained of retaliation when they fired him after the hospital’s medical helicopter crashed in 2001. The maintenance worker felt that he should have been protected under the state’s whistleblower laws because he had expressed safety concerns prior to the crash.

Just like in Idaho, New Jersey also has whistleblower laws that protect an employee from retaliatory actions after disclosing violations of the law by the employer. But if an employer corrects the improper activity, a person may not be able to claim whistleblower protection in the event of termination. In the case above, the hospital was responsive to the worker’s concerns and “implemented policies to address a number of them.”

Because the hospital had remedied the potential violations, a lower court felt that the man had not been fired because of whistle-blowing activities but rather for other reasons. The state’s Supreme Court later affirmed this.

Without knowledge of all of our state’s employment laws though, a person may find themselves wondering if they have a case and if they should proceed with litigation. But as this case points out, even though you may think you are protected by certain laws, a misunderstanding about any one of them may not end with the result you were hoping for.

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The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, “Conscientious Employee Protection Act, ‘Whistleblower Act’,” Accessed Aug. 14, 2014

Courthouse News Service, “Hospital Whistle-Blower Loses Retaliation Claim,” Jeff D. Gorman, Aug. 12, 2014