New Jersey Supreme Court strengthens protections of whistleblower law

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Court held in favor of a “watchdog employee,” strengthening the protections of CEPA.

The whistleblower law in New Jersey is arguably one of the strongest in the country. The law makes it illegal for employers to fire employees who report illegal activities occurring within the workplace. These protections were solidified with a recent ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court. The case brought before the court questioned whether watchdog employees in New Jersey are able to receive protections under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). This state law protects employees from retaliation by employers for exposing illegal activities that occur within the workplace.

More on the case

The case, Joel S. Lippman, M.D. v. Ethicon, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, Inc., involved an employee that worked for a subsidiary of the manufacturing giant Johnson & Johnson. The company produced medical devices, and the employee’s job was to review the safety and quality of these devices as well as asses for any potential health risks the products could pose.

The employee objected to proposed distribution of certain devices, stating the products were “medically unsafe and that their sale violated various federal and state laws and regulations.” Shortly after these allegations, the employee was fired. The company alleged the termination was connected to an inappropriate relationship between the employee and another worker who held a position under the employee’s authority. The employee argued that the termination was retaliatory in nature and a direct result of his whistleblowing activities.

A breakdown of the ruling

Upon analyzing the case, the Court defined “watchdog employees” as:

[T]hose whose job duties entail knowing or securing compliance with a relevant standard of care and knowing when an employer’s actions or proposed actions deviate from that standard of care

Ultimately, the Court held that these workers are among those in the most need of CEPA protections.

Impact of the ruling

This ruling showcases the broad protections offered to employees in New Jersey who report wrongdoing within their place of employment and are retaliated against for these actions by their employers. Such retaliation is illegal, and remedies are available to victims. These remedies can include:

  • A court ordered injunction to restrain any violation of the act that is occurring at the time the court issues the order
  • Reinstatement to the previous position
  • Reinstatement to an equivalent position
  • Compensation to cover lost wages, benefits and other costs, as well as attorney fees

If you believe you are the victim of retaliation, you may be eligible to receive these remedies. Contact an experienced New Jersey Whistleblower lawyer to discuss your case and assure your legal rights and remedies are protected.

Keywords: employment law whistleblower protection