Whistleblowers are often wrongly portrayed as disgruntled, underhanded troublemakers lurking in the dark in attempts to wreak havoc on employers or the government for their own personal financial gain and/or notoriety. This cartoonish characterization is not just laughable to those of us who regularly represent whistleblowing employees but both severely undermines the important role played by whistleblowers in our society and completely ignores the ostracism, retaliation, and economic as well as emotional tolls suffered by whistleblowing employees.
Today’s whistleblowers are generally company and government employees – people who discover or learn of illegal conduct and practices because they are exposed to them in the normal scope of their duties at work. That means that there really is no stereotypical whistleblower. Instead, whistleblowing employees are as varied as the types of wrongdoing about which they complain. They come from all walks of life and work and include police officers who disclose wide-spread racial profiling during vehicular stops and arrests, corporate pollution control technicians who object to employers’ dumping of toxic chemicals in rivers in violation of EPA regulations, secretaries who learn of unlawful shredding of tax documents containing smoking gun proof of tax evasion or other wrongdoing, government employees who disclose taxpayer fraud, human resources employees who object to corporate-wide gender discrimination, auditors who complain about the use of accounting loopholes and poor financial reporting to hide debt from shareholders, SEC enforcement officers who refuse to ignore Ponzi Schemes by investment securities firms claiming to achieve results that are mathematically and legally impossible, teachers who complain about dangerous conditions in classrooms, restaurant workers who disclose unsafe food handling or storage practices, toxicologists who object to unsafe levels of chemicals in products, pharma reps who blow the whistle on off-label marketing of products . . . the list goes on and on.
The one constant in all of the above-listed examples, however, is that employees who blow the whistle on unlawful conduct tend to be loyal, long-term workers who truly believe that their employers will respond in a positive manner to their complaints. That means that most whistleblowers do not raise concerns out of self-interest. Instead, most do so out of a need to do the right thing or further some greater good.
Despite their attempts to fix wrongdoing or “do good”, studies suggest, and our experience confirms, that retaliation against whistleblowers is on the rise. In fact, most people who call our office with whistleblower claims do so because they were either fired or demoted, placed on PIPs (performance improvement plans), unfairly criticized, suspended, falsely charged with misconduct, are being micromanaged after blowing the whistle on conduct that they reasonably believe is unlawful, violates a rule or regulation or is against public policy or are being targeted in some other way.
Employees who are subjected to such unlawful conduct, however, should not feel like they stand alone and should know that they can get help. New Jersey has one of the most expansive and protective whistleblower protection laws in this Nation. In fact, our whistleblower statute protects employees who disclose or threaten to disclose to a supervisor or public body, or provide information or testimony to a public body, or object to or refuse to participate in a policy, or practice that they reasonably believe violates (1) a law or rule or regulation issued under the law, or (2) public policy concerning public health, safety, or welfare or the protection of the environment. That same law also protects licensed or certified health care professionals who blow the whistle on conduct that they reasonably believe constitutes improper quality of patient care. Successful claims can result in the payment of lost wages, for emotional harm suffered as a result of retaliation, reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and costs, and large punitive damages’ award. Our State’s whistleblower law is commonly referred to as CEPA, which is an acronym for the Conscientious Employee Protection Act. It protects employees who have a reason
If you believe your employer has taken retaliation action against you as a result of your lawful whistleblowing activity, our New Jersey Employment Attorneys at Lenzo & Reis, LLC, can help. Our attorneys will evaluate your case to determine your legal rights. We are dedicated to fighting for the rights of whistleblowing employees across the state. Contact us today at (973) 845-9922 for a free case evaluation.