Most working adults understand that they have special protections under federal law if they have to report their employer for doing something illegal. Whether someone reports their employer to a government regulatory agency or makes a report to upper management about local practices, they should not have to worry about retaliation for doing what is right.
Federal law protects those who report illegal or discriminatory behaviors from retaliation by their employers. New Jersey takes those protections a step further with the Conscientious Employee Protection Act. The idea behind whistleblower protection laws like CEPA is that by preventing employer retaliation, government agencies can increase internal reporting and make it easier to stop illegal practices at businesses.
What protections does CEPA offer to workers?
Like the federal laws that protect whistleblowers, CEPA specifically prohibits employers from penalizing an employee who reports illegal or suspected illegal business practices to management, another company or government agency. It also protects healthcare professionals who notice inappropriate patient care or inadequate care.
CEPA additionally protects those who refuse to comply with an employer’s illegal practices or participate in an activity they believe is either fraudulent or criminal. These protections even extend to those who tell potential business partners, clients or customers about issues with fraud or illegal practices within the company.
No employer can retaliate against a staff member for reporting criminal activity or refusing to partake in it. Retaliation could look like termination, demotion, moving someone to worse shifts, reducing someone’s pay or creating a hostile work environment for a whistleblower. Those who act from a sense of ethical obligation shouldn’t have to worry about losing their jobs or hurting their careers.
CEPA allows you to seek financial compensation
Instead of just prohibiting specific employer activities, CEPA actually empowers whistleblowers to take action against an employer who violates their rights. Workers can seek both compensation for provable financial losses and punitive damages intended to penalize the company for their misbehavior.
The compensation you see could include lost wages, expenses related to the lawsuit or claim itself, and other financial consequences of retaliation, such as a change to your career trajectory that will limit your future income. In some cases, the courts can order a company to rehire someone wrongfully fired as part of a whistleblower issue. Other times, they can authorize back pay beginning with the date of termination.
Stepping forward as a whistleblower or testifying against your employer requires courage, and it is a decision that should receive admiration, not castigation. Employers should value workers who follow the law and have a deep sense of moral responsibility. Taking action against a company that violates your rights under CEPA protects you, the public and future employees at the company from its questionable practices.