People who believe that their employers have engaged in illegal or unethical behavior should be able to come forward without fear of losing their jobs or facing other forms of retaliation. New Jersey employment law offers broad protections for whistleblowers who report alleged wrongdoing by their employers and engage in other protected activities. At the federal level, numerous statutes include whistleblower protections in specific industries or for specific types of claims. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), for example, protects employees of publicly-traded corporations who report alleged fraud or violations of securities laws. The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case involving a dispute over who has the burden of proving “retaliatory intent” in SOX whistleblower cases.
New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) prohibits employers from “tak[ing] any retaliatory action” against an employee for numerous protected activities. These may include the following:
– Reporting or threatening to report activities that the employee reasonably believes are illegal, unethical, or fraudulent;
– Cooperating with investigations or hearings regarding suspected illegal acts by the employer;
– Testifying in connection with such investigations;
– Objecting to activities or policies that the employee believes are unlawful, fraudulent, or against public policy; and
– Reporting an alleged violation of CEPA.
While CEPA applies to all employers in New Jersey, the whistleblower protection provisions in SOX only apply to employers that are also publicly-traded corporations governed by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations. The statute’s list of protected activities is similar to CEPA’s list, except that it only applies to reports and investigations related to certain types of fraud, including wire fraud, bank fraud, and securities fraud, as well as violations of SEC regulations and other securities laws.