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Monday, October 3, 2022

NJ Whistleblower Attorney, Do I Have a Case if I Report Employer’s Illegal Acts but Don’t Know Which Statute?

Many employees want to complain to their employer about illegal acts or business practices, but they are not sure what their rights are when at the time they complain, they cannot name the exact law or give a legal citation to the statute being broken. This is quite common and understandable, because persons often may know there is illegality being committed even when they cannot cite to the exact statute, i.e., employees from restaurants are instructed to dump vats of used cooking oil in the Hackensack River rather than have employer pay to legally dispose of them according to municipal, county and state regulations; medical personal being instructed to change dates or data on medical reports to avoid medical malpractice suits; misrepresenting figures to defraud shareholders.

This firm has a long history of aggressively and successfully representing employee-whistleblowers and receiving multiple six-figure monetary compensation for whistleblowers. You should call this firm today for a free consultation if you are thinking of complaining to your employer or if you were a whistleblower and the employer retaliated. 

A question commonly asked is, “What happens if the thing I complain about, turns out to not be illegal?”

Employee Whistleblowers, NJ Courts on “Reasonableness” of Belief

If a NJ employee complains about what she reasonably believes to be an illegal business practice of employer but the employer is not in fact violating any law, under New Jersey’s employee whistleblower statute, CEPA, the fact it was not illegal does not automatically render it fatal to a successful claim if the employee’s belief was a reasonable belief. Courts have discretion to determine if the employee’s belief was a sincere reasonable belief considering the entirety of the circumstances. Of course, it makes it a stronger argument that the belief was reasonable when at the time the employee complains to employer, she does cite to the actual statute or name the law or government regulation that that she believes is being violated.

Likewise, it makes it a stronger case when the employer actually did violate the law, and the employee complained about it, and the employer thereafter retaliated against the employee by demotion, undesirable transfer, hours being reduced, outright termination, or other substantial adverse actions.

The  Legislature enacted CEPA,  New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 34:19-1 et seq., to "protect and encourage employees to report illegal or unethical workplace activities and to discourage public and private sector employers from engaging in such conduct." Abbamont v. Piscataway Township Bd. of Educ., 138 N.J. 405, 431, 650 A.2d 958, 971 (1994). In furtherance of that goal, this stature is liberally and broadly interpreted. Part 1 of this topic may be read here.

NJ Courts Held Sufficiency of the Employee’s “Reasonable Belief” That Employer Is Engaging in Illegal Workplace Activities Is Essential to Maintain CEPA Claim.

The NJ Supreme Court in Dzwonar v. McDevitt, 177 N.J. 451 ( 2003) described a basic legal framework for a cause of action pursuant to the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, under N.J.S.A. 34:19-3c to be that a plaintiff must demonstrate that:

a) he or she reasonably believed that his or her employer's conduct was violating either a law, rule, or regulation promulgated pursuant to law, or a clear mandate of public policy;

b) he or she performed a "whistle-blowing" activity described in N.J.S.A. 34:19-3c;

(c) an adverse employment action was taken against him or her; and

d) a causal connection exists between the whistle-blowing activity and the adverse employment action.

In Dzwonar, at issue was whether the plaintiff, who argued that she objected to actions by defendants that she reasonably believed violated both the law and public policy, satisfies the reasonableness of first prong of that test. Citing to a 2002 decision, Gerard v. Camden County Health Servs. Ctr., the Dzwonar Court stated that a plaintiff who brings a claim pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:19-3c need not show that his or her employer or another employee actually violated the law or a clear mandate of public policy. Instead the plaintiff must demonstrate the reasonableness of her/his belief.

If you quit your job, you may lose right to prevail in a lawsuit.

In many instances of discrimination, if you quit your job, you may lose right to prevail in a lawsuit unless you first take certain legally required measures to preserve your job while you are still employed. If you are thinking of quitting, or think you will be fired, you should contact this office immediately to discuss your options in the safest way for you.

What You Can Do

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing persons who were whistleblower employees and was successful in recovering multiple six figure settlement moneys for them. If you are thinking of resigning, or think you will be fired, or have been fired, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in whistleblower law.

If You Complained about What You Reasonably Believed to Be Your Employer’s Illegal Practices and Your Employer Retaliated

Do not sit on your rights, or you may lose the right to file your claim. If you think you have been retaliated against for complaining about or reporting to your employer what you believe are your employer’s illegal practices, it is essential for you to contact an experienced, competent and successful whistleblower attorney who will be aggressive about enforcing your rights as soon as possible.

If you have been demoted, had your hours cut, terminated, harassed or been subjected to retaliation for complaining about, objecting to, refusing to participate in, or reporting what you believe is your employer’s illegal or improper conduct, you should contact this law firm as soon as possible. I am an experienced and compassionate employment attorney who will be aggressive about enforcing your rights.

If you are being subjected to such unlawful workplace retaliation, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation. I accept whistleblower and discrimination cases from all over New Jersey.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law represents workers throughout the entire state, including Hackensack, Jersey City, Newark, Irvington, Orange, East Orange, Trenton, Paterson, Montclair, Elizabeth, North Brunswick, Cherry Hill, Vineland, Union, Plainfield, Hamilton Township, Lakewood, Edison, Parsippany-Troy Hills, Franklin, Lakewood, and every NJ County, including Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex, Essex, Monmouth, Somerset, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, Morris, Gloucester, Atlantic, Burlington, Camden Counties.



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