I Live in New Jersey and I Blew the Whistle on my Employer. Am I Protected by any New Jersey State Laws?
Yes. New Jersey has a law that protects employees who act as whistleblowers by reporting their employer for committing misconduct. The law is called the “Conscientious Employee Protection Act”, or CEPA for short.
What CEPA does is prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee who discloses employer actions or policies that are in violation of the law. This also covers employees who provide information on company violations to an investigation committee or before a board hearing.
In other words, your employee is not allowed to punish you for blowing the whistle at your workplace. They cannot fire, deny benefits, or reduce your wages for your actions.
Is New Jersey’s Law any Different from other Whistleblower Laws?
Yes, in two ways. First, New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act places a great deal of emphasis on employees who work in the health care industry. For example, the law protects any employee who is a certified health care professional in cases of reporting improper or sub-quality patient health care. CEPA also includes a reference to the public policy of maintaining good health care provisions for the community. This is a unique feature of the law that reflects the standard of care in New Jersey’s local economy.
Next, the law also protects employees who refuse to participate in company actions or policies that are against the law or are in violation of public policy standards regarding health care. Many whistleblower laws do not specifically address employee participation in questionable company practices; they tend to focus only on reporting issues. Employers are held to a higher standard of care under CEPA. States are allowed to require more protection than Federal standards.
What should I do if I wish to Make a Report or File a Complaint
You should make a report both internally with your employer and with an employment discrimination agency such as the OSHA or the EEOC. You are usually required to file with such an agency before you can file a civil lawsuit. If your case involves a New Jersey health care organization, you may also wish to report with a local health care governance board.
If your employer has taken retaliatory action against you, you may be able to recover losses like back pay or obtain reinstatement if you have been fired.
You are not required by law to obtain a lawyer if you are going to file with OSHA or EEOC. However, it is a good idea to consult with one, so that they can help you prepare all the necessary documents for filing. In the event of a lawsuit, your documents may be used to support your claim in court. Keep detailed records of any incident that may be relevant to your case.