Whistleblowing has been around for a long time, but some employees have not felt protected in the event that they must alert the public of dangers. Whistleblowing actually occurs wen somebody either in a government agency or private enterprise role encloses information to the public or those in management of wrongdoing. Since the 1960s, provisions have been put in place to protect the employees that come forth about these matters on their own. In fact, federal and state statutes and regulations have been enacted to protect those instead of having them fear that they could potentially lose their job for their actions. In fact, the Federal False Claims Act rewards whistleblowers who bring a lawsuit against a company that commits fraud against the government.
When somebody acts as a whistleblower, they may find that they will become subject of retaliation by their employer. The employer will sometimes discharge the whistleblower due to their actions, even though they were simply trying to help the public. Most of these employees end up being at-will, which means that they are able to quit at any time but the employer also retains the right to fire the employee without having to give them a reason. Now, with the help of the courts, exceptions have been put in place for whistleblowers who are at-will employees.
Common Law Protections in New Jersey
In New Jersey, there is something known as a public policy exception, which means that an employer is not permitted to discharge an employee for a reason that violates a clear mandate of public policy. If they are discharged, they are permitted to sue for the unjust action. However, to make a determination of what constitutes public policy, New Jersey courts take a look at statutes, constitutional provisions, and much more. In many cases, employees are protected from retaliation stemming from these protected activities:
- Reporting workplace safety violations
- Refusing to commit an illegal act
- Reporting illegal activity to an outside authority
Statutory protections also come into play in New Jersey. If an employee engages in a protected activity, they are protected from retaliation. This includes discrimination, family leave, hazardous substances, minimum wage, occupational health and safety, wage discrimination, and much more. This means that an employee, under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, cannot be discharged for the following:
- Disclosing an activity, policy, or practice that the employee believes if illegal or criminal
- Providing information or testimony to a public body conducting an investigation
- Objecting to or refusing to participate in an activity that they believe is illegal
In New Jersey, if you believe you are being discriminated against or retaliated against because of a whistleblowing claim, you have protections. You can choose to file a lawsuit in the appropriate court; however, the lawsuit must be filed within 2 years of the action. This is why it is a good idea to have an experienced attorney on your side who can help you in the midst of your whistleblower claim. Call us today at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi to get started on your case.