New Jersey Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Wrongful Termination for Reporting “Partying” at Conference

Employees who suspect wrongdoing by their employers might not report their concerns if they fear losing their jobs. New Jersey employment laws seek to protect these employees, commonly known as whistleblowers, by prohibiting retaliation by their employers. Laws at the state and federal level allow employees to file civil suits for monetary damages and other forms of relief, often including reinstatement, if their employers take adverse action against them because of whistleblowing activities. A lawsuit pending in a New Jersey federal court alleges that an employer unlawfully retaliated against the plaintiff for reporting concerns about an executive’s conduct at an industry conference.

The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) protects whistleblowers in various situations, including reporting suspected illegal activity to a supervisor. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) bars employers from “tak[ing] reprisals” against employees who report or oppose unlawful discrimination or harassment. These laws protect a wide range of conduct aimed at opposing alleged violations of criminal and employment statutes.

According to the complaint, the defendant is a “global trading firm” that works with cryptocurrency. It has headquarters in Jersey City, London, and Tokyo. The plaintiff states that he worked for the defendant in Jersey City as its “Global Head of Options Trading – Americas.” He alleges that he “was a valued, well-respected employee and contributing team member,” and that he contributed to millions of dollars in profits for the defendant.

The lawsuit centers around complaints that the plaintiff made about the defendant’s Tokyo-based chairman and co-CEO. The co-CEO attended the annual Bitcoin Conference in April 2022 in Miami Beach. The complaint states that the conference, despite “being known as a serious forum [for] discussing and promoting the cryptocurrency culture,” had also gained a reputation for “strenuous ‘partying’ and significant social excess.”

The plaintiff alleges that the co-CEO generated controversy within the company by flying a 19-year-old woman from Thailand to Florida for the conference while claiming that she would be working for him as an intern. The plaintiff, who did not attend the conference, claims that he received multiple reports from “young subordinates” at the conference regarding the co-CEO’s behavior, including alleged consumption of alcohol and drugs, sharing drugs with others, and inappropriate behavior with the 19-year-old intern. He further claimed that the company was gaining a reputation as “the trading firm to visit if you wanted to party.”

Within a day or two of receiving these reports, the plaintiff went to the defendant’s general counsel, who allegedly shared his concerns. The plaintiff also spoke to his immediate supervisor and others. He states that he was initially optimistic about the defendant’s response, but claims that no action was taken. The co-CEO received a promotion to “Sole Global Chief Executive Officer” and allegedly “launch[ed] a retaliation campaign against [the] plaintiff.” He was fired in August 2022.

The plaintiff now resides in Florida. In September 2023, he filed suit in federal court in New Jersey based on diversity jurisdiction. He is claiming retaliation in violation of the NJLAD and CEPA, as well as negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Employers that violate their employees’ legal rights may be liable for damages. If you have experienced unlawful retaliation by your employer, a knowledgeable and experienced employment attorney can help you assert your rights. The Resnick Law Group advocates for workers in New Jersey and New York in federal and state claims. To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case, please contact us online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.

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