How Do I Know If I Have A Valid Whistleblower Retaliation Claim?

The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee did any of the following:

  • Disclosed or threatened to disclose to a supervisor or public body an activity, policy or practice of the employer (or another employer with whom there is a business relationship) that the employee reasonably believes (a) is in violation of a law, or (b) in the case of an employee who is a licensed or certified health care professional, constitutes improper quality of patient care; or
  • Provided information to or testified before any public body investigating (a) any violation of law by the employer (or another employer with whom there is a business relationship), or (b) in the case of an employee who is a licensed or certified health care professional, the quality of patient care; or
  • Objected to or refused to participate in any activity, policy or practice that the employee reasonably believes (a) is in violation of a law, or (b) if the employee is a licensed or certified health care professional, constitutes improper quality of patient care, or (c) is incompatible with a clear mandate of public policy concerning the public health, safety or welfare or protection of the environment

And that's just a summary of what the law actually says! So, let's unpack all that language and restate it in plain English.

Types Of Whistleblowing

The law protects employees who:

  • Reveal information to a supervisor or the government (which includes testifying before a public body); or
  • Object to something, such as policies or activities they believe are illegal or otherwise improper; or
  • Refuse to participate in something, including activities they believe are illegal or otherwise improper

The last two kinds of whistleblowing are the broadest for two reasons. First, the objection or refusal does not need to be made to anyone in particular (like a supervisor or public body as required for disclosure or testimony). Second, the underlying wrongful conduct does not even have to be something the employer (or an employer with whom there is a business relationship) is doing; it could be something an unrelated third party is doing.

Types Of Conduct That You Blow The Whistle On

Not all whistleblowing is protected. The only kind of whistleblowing that is protected is an activity that the employee reasonably believes is:

  • Illegal
  • Improper health care if the employee is a licensed or certified health care professional
  • Incompatible with a clear mandate of public policy concerning the public health, safety, welfare or protection of the environment

This embraces crimes, civil wrongs like fraud and virtually anything that threatens the public or the environment.

What Is 'The Reasonable Belief' Standard?

The courts do not expect employees to be lawyers. The whistleblower does not need to cite a specific law or public policy. In fact, whistleblowers do not even have to be right. As long as it was reasonable to believe that the wrongful conduct was unlawful, constituted improper health care, or violated a public policy protecting the public or the environment, the whistleblower is protected, even if he or she was mistaken about the facts and even if the facts do not support an actual violation of law or public policy.

If you are being or have been retaliated against because you blew the whistle on unlawful conduct, improper health care or violations of public policy, email or call Lenzo & Reis, LLC, in Morristown at 973-845-9922 to speak with an experienced employment law attorney. We represent employees filing whistleblower retaliation claims throughout New Jersey.