There are two ways someone can become a “whistleblower” under New Jersey Law. The first is when someone refuses to participate in, and objects to, or threatens to disclose or actually discloses, either internally or to an outside agency such as the State, conduct that the person “reasonably” believes is fraudulent, illegal or in violation of a compelling public policy. A “compelling” public policy can be found in State or Federal statutory law, legal doctrines or opinions, rules or regulations of local, county, state or national governments, administrative code and regulations, ordinances, and statutes.
When a person undertakes one of the protected acts above, and is retaliated against, his or her rights have been violated under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).
When a person engages in conduct consistent with, in accord with, or who advances rights under, a “compelling public policy” of our State, and when that person is retaliated against by way of wrongful discharge, termination, or other adverse job actions leading to separation from employment, the person has a right under a common law doctrine know as the Pierce vs. Ortho Pharmaceuticals doctrine, otherwise known as the “Public Policy Wrongful Discharge” doctrine.
This latter option is a “common law” rather than “statutory” remedy, and it does not carry attorneys’ fees, but it does allow for compensatory and punitive damages when someone advancing such a claim prevails at trial.
Under either CEPA or the Pierce doctrine, a person cannot be discriminated against, meaning that the person cannot be fired — and under CEPA cannot be harassed, terminated or suffer other adverse job actions such as demotion — when the employee identifies himself or herself as a “whistleblower.”
Also, under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (the New Jersey “LAD”), when someone aids, assists, provides information regarding, encourages or supports someone in making a good faith claim under the New Jersey LAD, that person is also now a “whistleblower” and is entitled to whistleblower protection, both under the LAD and CEPA.
There are also many other less well-known doctrines that prohibit certain types of retaliation such as protection from Workers’ Compensation retaliation, protection from calling the Department of Labor, protection from announcing or opposing violations of wage and hour laws, protection from retaliation from calling the Occupation of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, either state or federal), and for reporting fraudulent financial transactions and financial management under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
When a person is demoted, wrongfully discharged, terminated, micromanaged, harassed or abused in the workplace because he or she is a whistleblower, many laws and doctrines afford for compensatory and punitive damages, equitable remedies such as reinstatement, front pay and back pay, and in certain cases, attorneys’ fees.
Doing the right thing should never cost you, and you should be protected for being a whistleblower. The New Jersey employment and civil rights attorneys at Costello & Mains have obtained millions in settlements and verdicts for New Jersey whistleblowers who are discriminated against because they have done the right thing. If you or a loved one has suffered this type of retaliatory discrimination, contact us.