Government regulators enforce a wide variety of laws, from statutes prohibiting employment discrimination to those that deal with securities fraud and other fraudulent activities. They rely on information provided by business insiders, but many employees might hesitate to report potential legal violations by their employers for fear of losing their jobs. New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) is one of many whistleblower protection statutes that prohibit retaliation by employers against employees who report their concerns. Proving that an adverse employment action constituted unlawful retaliation can be tricky, and different statutes have different requirements. A federal appellate court recently ruled on a whistleblower claim under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). It found that this statute has a more difficult standard of proof than CEPA. If you fear retaliation or discrimination for reporting legal violations in the workplace, reach out to a New Jersey employment lawyer to review your options.
CEPA provides rather broad protection for whistleblowers in New Jersey. It applies to employees who:
– Report alleged violations of a statute or regulation, either internally or to a regulatory agency;
– Provide information or testimony as part of an ongoing investigation into a possible violation of the law; or
– Object to or decline to participate in an activity that they reasonably believe would violate the law or go against public policy.
The statute’s definition of a “retaliatory action” includes termination, suspension, demotion, and other adverse actions.
An employee claiming unlawful retaliation under CEPA must show a causal connection between their whistleblowing activities and the adverse action against them. New Jersey court rulings have held that a plaintiff can establish this element by producing enough evidence to allow a judge or jury “to infer that discrimination was more likely than not a motivating or determinative cause” of the employer’s adverse action. The recent appellate court decision regarding SOX found a much stricter burden of proof for plaintiffs.