New Jersey workers benefit from several federal and state laws that protect whistleblowers and incentivize them to report fraud. Here are some of the most common questions for whistleblowers and would-be whistleblowers in the Garden State.
What laws specifically protect New Jersey whistleblowers?
New Jersey employees are protected by one of the strongest whistleblower anti-retaliation statutes in the country, known as the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, or “CEPA.” CEPA prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who engage in several different forms of whistleblowing, including:
- disclosing or threatening to disclose to supervisors or to a public body any activity, policy, or practice of their employer that the employee reasonably believes violates the law;
- for healthcare workers, disclosing or threatening to disclose activities, policies, and practices that constitute improper quality of patient care;
- providing information about deception, fraud, or misrepresentations to shareholders, employees, or the government;
- objecting to or refusing to participate in any behavior an employee reasonably believes to be illegal, fraudulent, or criminal conduct, or activities that are against public health, safety, welfare, or the environment.
While CEPA provides very strong protections, it is not the only law that prohibits retaliation against New Jersey whistleblowers. Similar to the Federal False Claims Act, which protects New Jersey whistleblowers who report fraud against the federal government, New Jersey also has the New Jersey False Claims Act, which prohibits retaliation against employees who report or try to stop fraud against the state government.
Other New Jersey state laws protect whistleblowers who report or object to violations of anti-discrimination laws, wage and hour laws, and other employee benefits and protections. An experienced whistleblower and employment attorney can assess whether your concerns fit within New Jersey’s broad protections for whistleblowers, or other federal protections.
What counts as “retaliation” under New Jersey law?
Although the law protects whistleblowers against retaliation, it still occurs, and unfortunately employees often experience retaliation for speaking up. Retaliation can occur in many different ways, including demotion, relocation, pay cut, blackballing, or termination.
Whistleblowers who experience retaliation may have legal claims against their employers or former employers, and the New Jersey Supreme Court has interpreted New Jersey’s whistleblower protections expansively. Appreciating the importance of protecting whistleblowers, the statute allows for punitive damages, which means that a jury or court may award additional damages for particularly egregious or outrageous conduct against a whistleblower.
What remedies are available to New Jersey whistleblowers who are retaliated against?
Under CEPA, whistleblowers who were retaliated against are potentially eligible for reinstatement, lost wages, benefits, and other remuneration, plus reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees, along with punitive damages.
How long does a New Jersey whistleblower have to bring a retaliation claim under CEPA?
CEPA’s statute of limitations—the deadline for filing a legal claim against a retaliatory employer—is one year, meaning you must bring your claims within a year.
How do New Jersey whistleblowers report fraud against the state government?
The New Jersey False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to report fraud against the state and governments. The New Jersey False Claims Act is most commonly used to target Medicaid, but it applies to all fraud against the government, including construction fraud in state-funded construction projects, procurement fraud, failure to pay prevailing wages on state projects, and any other fraud against the government.
What rewards are available to New Jersey whistleblowers who report fraud on the state government?
New Jersey whistleblowers may be eligible for a reward of 15-30% of the amount recovered by the state if they file a claim under the New Jersey False Claims. Whether a whistleblower receives an award, and the amount of that award varies from case to case. An experienced whistleblower attorney can advise you on whether your claims may qualify for a reward.
Although robust anti-retaliation protections and strong whistleblower reward programs are in place in New Jersey, it’s still intimidating to become a whistleblower, especially when it involves reporting your own boss or employer.
An experienced whistleblower attorney can help de-mystify the process, evaluate your particular facts, and help guide your decision on whether to blow the whistle. Our whistleblower and retaliation team, led by Tammy Marzigliano and David Jochnowitz, has the knowledge, experience, and dedication to guide potential whistleblowers through the complex process, ensuring their rights are protected every step of the way.