As you may know, employers generally are prohibited from retaliating against you if you speak up +and oppose discrimination or sexual harassment (targeted at you or someone else.) However, here in New Jersey the law does more — barring employers from retaliating against employees for standing up and opposing (or threatening to oppose) various law violations, rules violations, safety issues, fraud, or other misconduct. This type of speaking out is called whistleblowing and the Conscientious Employee Protect Act offers whistleblowers substantial protections. If you’ve been punished for speaking out, then you may be entitled to various forms of very important relief, so you should get in touch with an experienced New Jersey whistleblower retaliation lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options.
For one Jersey Shore nurse, A.W., it all started when a fellow nurse, according to their local union, “blew the whistle” on the lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) at their workplace during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a nj.com report.
A.W., who was also the local union president, backed up those assertions, posting on Facebook about the lack of PPE, hazard pay, and other problems, as well as hosting an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit.
Eventually, A.W.’s colleague was disciplined. When she was scheduled for a disciplinary hearing, the union president asked for a “union day” off to attend the hearing. The hospital refused the request but the union president attended the hearing anyway. The employer declared him a no-show for his shift and suspended him for insubordination.
The hospital fired him a short time after that. Despite what the hospital asserted, A.W. told nj.com that the real reason the hospital fired him “was because he spoke out, raising concerns about safety.”
Eventually, he got the chance to present his case to an arbitrator. After “months of arbitration,” that arbitrator sided with the employee. The nurse received reinstatement to his job with full seniority, alongside back pay and benefits.
What Whistleblower Retaliation Looks Like and Relief Under the CEPA Can Look Like
Here in New Jersey, we have the CEPA, which is also known as the Whistleblower Act, and which provides strong protections to whistleblowers who expose dangers and other problems at their workplaces. One of this law’s primary objectives is to protect employees by prohibiting employers from retaliating against them due to the employee’s whistleblowing activities.
Under the CEPA, protected activities can include a variety of things, including disclosing or threatening to disclose illegal conduct to a supervisor or public agency, giving information or testifying before a body that is investigating wrongdoing at the employer’s workplace, disclosing information about misinformation or deception of shareholders, investors, clients, patients, customers, employees, or government agencies, and refusing to participate in an activity they reasonably believe is a violation of the laws or regulations, is “fraudulent or criminal,” or is “incompatible with a clear mandate of public policy concerning the public health, safety or welfare or protection of the environment.”
Retaliation against you as a whistleblower may be highly overt or very subtle. It can include an array of adverse employment actions, ranging from an immediate suspension, demotion, or termination to a campaign of disciplinary “write-ups” and/or “papering a file” in anticipation of demoting or firing you shortly. Another way retaliation can present itself is via harassment that creates a hostile work environment for you.
If you’re a whistleblower who was subjected to that kind of workplace retaliation, the CEPA gives you the potential to obtain various forms of relief. One is what’s called “injunctive relief,” which is when the court tells the defendant to do (or not to do) something. Types of injunctive relief in a whistleblower retaliation case might include reinstatement to a job from which you were fired, along with full seniority.
In terms of money damages, the law allows you to pursue several forms. Those may include lost pay, lost benefits, mental distress, and attorney’s fees.
Of, course, as is true of most forms of employment law-related misconduct, suing and obtaining a fully successful outcome requires more than simply presenting a complaint that says “I was wronged.” It takes detailed knowledge, of the law, of the evidence required, and how to go about getting the proof needed for success. If you’re on the wrong end of whistleblower retaliation, give yourself the powerful advocate you deserve. Reach out to the experienced New Jersey whistleblower retaliation attorneys at Phillips & Associates to learn more about your legal options and how we can help you achieve success. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to go over your legal options.