Executive Summary: Just when employers thought New Jersey’s Supreme Court could not expand the state’s whistleblower law further (as we reported last summer), the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) once again has been broadened. Now the Court has held that an employee governed by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and allegedly terminated in retaliation for engaging in protected activity concerning wages regulated by the CBA may bring a CEPA claim in New Jersey state court —rather than pursue the same claim for relief before the National Labor Relations Board. In so doing, the Court’s decision erases any doubt CEPA likely is the most far-reaching whistleblowing statute in the U.S.
Articles Discussing Workplace Whistleblower Protections In New Jersey.
When the Supreme Court of New Jersey held in Quinlan v. Curtiss-Wright Corp., 204 N.J. 239 (2010) that an employee’s unauthorized taking of an employer’s confidential documents can constitute protected activity when the documents are used in support of a discrimination claim. it left several vexing questions unanswered. In particular, the Court did not explain how it would reconcile this controversial decision with instances where an employee’s taking of documents constituted a violation of law.
In a decision that is likely to have far-reaching impact on employers, the New Jersey Supreme Court has rejected a heightened standard for “watchdog” employees, i.e. employees whose job duties include ensuring legal compliance, to prove whistleblower liability under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). Lippman v. Ethicon, Inc., No. A-65/66-13 (July 15, 2015).
In a unanimous decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court has refused to raise the bar for employees whose job entails ensuring legal compliance (“watchdog” employees) to bring whistleblower claims under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). Lippman v. Ethicon, Inc., No. A-65/66-13 (July 15, 2015).
The New Jersey Supreme Court will review a terminated company executive’s whistleblower claim to determine whether in allegedly raising concerns about the safety and efficacy of his employer’s products, he would be protected from firing by the state’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”), even though voicing such concerns was part of his job. Lippman v. Ethicon Inc. et al., No. A-65/66-13 (certification granted Mar. 14, 2014).
The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, long-considered one of the most broad-based whistleblower protection legislation in the United States, has been further expanded by the New Jersey Supreme Courtâ€™s holding that a CEPA plaintiff may recover lost wages without proving, or even alleging, a constructive discharge.