Articles Tagged with “New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act”

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police-1714956__340-300x200New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) provides a remedy for employees who are wrongfully terminated in retaliation for objecting to conduct which is believed to be illegal.  This Act is often referred to as the New Jersey “whistleblower law.”  In fact, it is one of the most liberally interpreted and expansive whistleblower laws in the country.  CEPA is a relatively new law, enacted n 1986, and thus has been the subject of much debate, misunderstanding, and misapplication.

CEPA provides wrongfully terminated or retaliated against employees with an avenue to seek redress.  An employee is protected under CEPA if she disclosed, objected to, or refused to participate in an act, policy, or practice of the employer which the employee reasonably believed violated a law, regulation, or public policy.  If the employee is then fired, harassed, or otherwise retaliated against as a direct result of the disclosure, objection, or refusal, that employee may have a claim under CEPA.

In the recent case of Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 1 v. City of Camden, police officers brought an action against the City claiming (among other things) retaliation in violation of CEPA for the officers’ objections to the City’s policies regarding police-civilian interactions, based upon the belief that the policy violated the anti-quota law.

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257897_whistle1.JPGNew Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) is New Jersey’s whistleblower protection law. CEPA provides perhaps the broadest and strongest legal protections in the country against whistleblower retaliation. However, it does not protect against all employee complaints that an employer is doing something it shouldn’t. In the recent case of Powell v. Wachovia Corporation, the Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court once again defined the outer limits of what objections are protected.

CEPA: New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act, the “Whistleblower Law.”

Among other things, CEPA prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who object to or refuse to participate in an employer activity, policy or practice which they reasonably believe violates a law, regulation or public policy, or which is criminal or fraudulent.

Examples of objections which New Jersey courts have found to be protected be protected under CEPA include:

  • New Jersey’s Supreme Court held that complaints about inadequate ventilation in a school shop affecting health and safety outlined in a guide incorporating regulations constituted clear mandate of public policy.
  • New Jersey’s Supreme Court found that objections that police selectively refused to enforce laws regarding sex-industry was complaint of violation of law affecting public welfare.
  • The Appellate Division held that objections to adoption of dog which had previously been violent impacted clear mandate of public policy to protect public from vicious dogs.
  • The Appellate Division found that a grammar school custodian objecting to unsanitary conditions in a student lavatory constituted objection regarding clear mandate of public policy.

What Happened Between Powell and His Employer, Wachovia

James Powell was a “benefits producer” for several insurance companies which were eventually acquired by Wachovia. As a benefits producer, Powell’s job was to market, sell and place insurance policies provided by companies as employee benefits. Powell was an “at-will” employee. However, he and his fellow benefits producers at Wachovia’s Wayne, New Jersey, were compensated under a contract from 1993 which had long ago expired. Under this scheme, they were paid fifty per cent of the revenue they generated.
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