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New Jersey Supreme Court urged to defend whistleblower law

The Supreme Court of New Jersey will hear a case that could have serious ramifications for employees intending to report wrongs committed by their employers this fall. The New Jersey Work Environment Council denounced what they claim is a corporate attack on concerned workers' rights in what appears to be a possible rollback of a key part of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act.

The act's scope was threatened by an appellate court ruling against a fired NJ Transit security operations manager in 2008. The ruling excluded employees who are employed as compliance officers from legal protection against company retaliation. However, a later appellate ruling involving a physician and business executive's firing upheld CEPA after the case was initially dismissed by a lower court.

An attorney working with the council expressed concern in a press conference that limiting to CEPA would force employees who are most capable of spotting improper company behavior to put their jobs on the line when taking action. The executive director of another group supporting CEPA claimed that automobile recalls show the importance of maintaining the statute's current protections.

New Jersey law currently protects employees who feel as though they have been wrongly terminated due to calling attention to the wrongful actions of employers. The state's law further prohibits firing based on refusal to participate in such activities as well as testifying to authorities regarding suspected illegal acts.

Although the future of a part of CEPA may be in the hands of the state's Supreme Court, whistleblowers whose normal job descriptions do not entail compliance monitoring should remain covered under the act. A lawyer can examine a fired worker's unique situation and determine whether there may be a valid claim under CEPA.

Source: NJ.com, "NJ Supreme Court must protect employee whistleblower law, labor and consumer groups say", Susan K. Livio, June 11, 2014

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