Defense Against Unlawful Retaliation and Whistleblower Claims in New Jersey

Retaliation and whistleblower claims are very prevalent in the State of New Jersey.  Therefore, it is important for New Jersey employers to consult with a trusted employment defense lawyer to understand how to minimize potential liability.   

What is Unlawful Retaliation?

Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), it is an unlawful employment practice to retaliate against any person because the individual (1) has opposed any practices or acts outlawed by the LAD (such as discrimination or harassment in the workplace) or (2) has or intends to file a complaint, testify, or assist in any proceeding under the LAD. 

Retaliation for Confronting Discrimination

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against individuals who report discrimination either internally to management or human resources.  Similarly, employers are prohibited from retaliating against individuals who file a complaint alleging discrimination with either federal or state government agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.  

Retaliation for Taking Leave

Federal and state law entitles employees to take a leave of absence for their own serious medical reasons, the birth or adoption of a child, or the care of certain family members.   As such, it is important for employees who exercise such rights to understand what constitutes unlawful retaliation for taking a leave of absence. In general, the employee must demonstrate that there is a causal connection between the leave and/or leave request and an adverse employment action suffered by the employee to establish a retaliation claim for taking leave that is cognizable under federal or state law.

Understanding Whistleblower Activity

The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) protects employees who report illegal, fraudulent, or unethical workplace practices and activities.  CEPA is a far-reaching statute that affords employees protection from unlawful retaliatory activity.  

Among the prohibitions of CEPA is that an employer shall not take any retaliatory adverse action against any employee who discloses or threatens to disclose, to a supervisor or to a public body, an activity, policy or practice of the employer or another employer with whom there is a business relationship, that the employee reasonably believes (1) is in violation of a law, or a rule or regulation issued under the law, including any violation involving deception of, or misrepresentation to, any shareholder, investor, client, patient, customer, employee, former employee, retiree or pensioner of the employer or any governmental entity, or, in the case of an employee who is a licensed or certified health care professional, reasonably believes constitutes improper quality of patient care, or (2) is fraudulent or criminal, including any activity, policy or practice of deception or misrepresentation which the employee reasonably believes may defraud any shareholder, investor, client, patient, customer, employee, former employee, retiree or pensioner of the employer or any governmental entity.  See N.J.S.A. 34:19-3a.  

Protecting Yourself from Retaliation Claims

 In light of the expansive nature of the anti-retaliation and whistleblower protection laws in the State of New Jersey, it is important for employers to consult with an experienced employment lawyer before making any adverse employment decisions (such as employment termination, reduction in force, or demotion).  This is especially true for employers who have to make employment decisions regarding employees who may have recently complained about activity in the workplace they reasonably believed was illegal or fraudulent or employees who have recently taken a leave of absence for a legally-protected reason.  

Work with a New Jersey Whistleblower Defense Attorney

The Firm’s Whistleblower Defense Attorneys are not only strong advocates but also trusted counselors who give employers practical strategic advice.  Our Whistleblower Defense attorneys have substantial experience defending employers against claims of whistleblower or unlawful retaliation.  If you require a Whistleblower Defense Attorney, please contact Curcio Mirzaian Sirot LLC.