Rights of Employees
Conscientious Employee Protection Act
The Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) is a broad New Jersey whistleblower law. Essentially, it protects employees from retaliation such as being fired, demoted, passed up for a promotion, or harassed because they objected to something they reasonably believed violated the law.What Activities Does CEPA Protect from Retaliation?
More specifically, CEPA prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee because the employee engaged in a fairly wide range protected activities. This includes objecting to, or refusing to participate in, an activity the employee reasonably believes (1) is in violation of a law or a legal regulation; (2) is fraudulent or criminal; or (3) is incompatible with a legal requirement relating to public health, safety, welfare or the protection of the environment.
CEPA also protects employees who disclose or threaten to disclose information to a supervisor or a public body about the employer’s activity, policy or practice that the employee reasonably believes: (1) violates the law or a legal regulation, or (2) is fraudulent or criminal.
In addition, CEPA protects employees who provide information to, or testify before, a public body that is investigating, hearing or inquiring about a potential violation of law by the employer or another person or business that does business with the employer.
Moreover, CEPA protects physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, chiropractors, and other licensed and other certified health care professionals who object about, refuse to participate in, or disclose to a supervisor or a public body, an activity they reasonably believe constitutes improper quality of patient care.Damages and Remedies Available Under CEPA
CEPA allows for a wide variety of damages and other remedies, damages for lost wages, lost employee benefits such as health insurance, and stock or stock options, damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, and potentially even reinstatement to your former job. In addition, an employee can recover his or her attorneys’ fees and costs from the employer.Other New Jersey Anti-Retaliation Statutes
While it is the broadest New Jersey whistleblower law, CEPA is not the only statute that protects employees from retaliation. Rather, numerous other laws prohibit employers from taking reprisals against employees who pursue their legal rights. This includes, for example, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), the New Jersey Wage & Hour Law ("NJWHL") and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”), which protects employees who object to activities they reasonably believe violates each of those laws.
In addition, New Jersey recognizes a claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. This claim, which is similar to a CEPA claim, often is referred to as a “Pierce” claim because it was first recognized by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Pierce v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp. One reason to be aware of this claim is that while CEPA has a one year statute of limitations, Pierce claims have a two year statute of limitations.
If you have additional questions or would like to schedule an initial consultation about your whistleblower claim, please feel free to contact us online or call us at (201) 777-2250.
For more information about New Jersey's whistleblower laws, please read one our Frequently Asked Questions about the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, or one of the following articles from our New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog:
- New Jersey Whistleblower Law Applies to Employees Working Out of State
- Whistleblower Law Applies Even if Employer Already Aware of Violation of Law
- New Jersey’s Whistleblower Law Protects All Employees, Including “Watchdogs”
- Employee’s Objection Must Relate to Violation of Measurable Standard to be Protected by CEPA
- New Jersey's Whistleblower Law Prohibits Retaliatory Transfer to Less Desirable Job
- CEPA Prohibits Employers from Retaliating Against Attorney For Refusing to Violate Ethics Rules
- Court Finds Retaliation Based on When Employee Was Replaced
- Filing Lawsuit Can Be Protected Under New Jersey’s Whistleblower Law
- Court Overturns Jury Waiver and Fee Award to Employer Under CEPA
- Police Captain Can Pursue Harassment in Retaliation for Objecting to Illegal Arrest Quota System