Articles Tagged with “New Jersey Whistleblower Law”

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business-1753098__340-300x213New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) employees from being fired for objecting to or refusing to participate in conduct which the employee reasonably believes to be illegal or against public policy.  If the employee is wrongfully retaliated against, CEPA provides a remedy through litigation.   Also known as the “whistleblower law,” CEPA is one of the most strongest employee protection laws in the country.  However, since it was enacted in only 1986, courts continue to disagree as to the exact scope and extend of the law.

In the recent case of Trzaska v. L’Oreal USA, Inc., the employee, Steven Trzaska claimed that he was fired in retaliation for his refusal to take actions which he believed violated the Rules of Professional Conduct (“RPC”).  RPCs set forth the rules for ethical conduct which although must follow, and, in fact, an attorney may lose his license to practice law if certain rules are not followed.  In the Trzaska case, L’Oreal had issued a quota or mandate for Mr. Trzaska to prepare a certain number of patent applications.  Mr. Trzaska advised that he would not file any patent application unless he had a good faith believe that the product was patentable.  Mr. Trzaska was fired thereafter and he filed a lawsuit in the District Court.

The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey then dismissed Mr. Trzaska’s case in the early stages requiring that the RPCs did not meet CEPA’s requirements that the employee object to or refuse to participate in illegal conduct.  CEPA’s language

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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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