Articles Posted in Whistleblower

Employees are protected under both federal and state law from retaliatory action for reporting the unethical or illegal conduct of their employers. Recovering under a whistleblowing claim can be difficult, as it requires the employee to prove both a retaliatory action and that any explanation the employer offers for the action is mere pretext.

The Superior Court of New Jersey recently explained that while a reduction in work duties is evidence of retaliatory action, a plaintiff must nonetheless provide evidence to refute an employer’s allegations that the reduction was justified for the claim to survive. If your employer unjustly reduced your work duties in retaliation for whistleblowing in violation of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), you should meet with an experienced New Jersey whistleblower attorney to discuss whether you may be able to recover damages.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Employment

The plaintiff worked as the director of the education opportunity fund (EOF) for the defendant university. Her duties included oversight of the budget. Shortly after she was hired, the plaintiff discovered that EOF funds were allegedly being used to pay the salaries of non-EOF staff, which she reported. The issue was remedied, but the plaintiff was no longer able to access the budget, and her other responsibilities were drastically reduced. While she was still responsible for reviewing the budget and certain expenditures, she felt that her supervisor intended to make her job more difficult if she did not review the budget as submitted. The plaintiff was never forced to approve the budget or threatened with adverse action if she did not approve it, however.

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In pursuing any claim, it is important to act in a timely manner. The deadlines and manner in which complaints alleging retaliatory action for protected whistleblower activity must be filed vary depending on the nature of the job and the employer. The failure to ensure an administrative complaint is mailed or received in the time required by law can result in the waiver of the right to recover.

The New Jersey District Court recently dismissed a whistleblower case due to the untimely filing of an administrative complaint, and in doing so, explained the manner in which the date of delivery is determined. If you believe your employer engaged in retaliatory tactics in violation of state or federal whistleblower laws, you should consult a skilled New Jersey whistleblower attorney to help you formulate a plan to seek damages.

Factual Scenario

Reportedly, the plaintiff worked for the defendant railroad transportation company as a conductor and brakeman. He alleged the defendant placed emphasis on productivity over compliance with the rules of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Specifically, he was encouraged by his supervisors to follow the rules less stringently. The plaintiff claimed he vigilantly followed the rules set forth by the FRA but was penalized for doing so via a reduction in his lunch periods and threats. He initially alerted the defendant’s internal investigation office regarding the retaliatory threats in October 2015 and he was advised in November 2015, that no action would be taken.

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If an employee feels his or her employer has taken adverse employment action against them in retaliation for whistleblowing, the employee can file a civil claim against the employer under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). For an employee to prevail on a CEPA claim, they must prove several components, one of which is to show they reasonably believed the employer’s conduct violated a law, regulation or public policy.

As recently set forth by a New Jersey Appellate court, when an employee alleging a CEPA claim based on a violation of a public policy fails to identify a source of authority setting forth the policy he or she believed the employer allegedly violated, it can be fatal to the employee’s claim. If you suspect your employer took adverse employment action against you in retaliation for whistleblowing activity, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced New Jersey whistleblower attorney to discuss the facts of your case and whether you may be able to pursue damages.

Facts Regarding Employee’s Employment

Allegedly, the employee received a copy of a letter discussing two of his co-workers’ escorting civilians at a high speed without authorization. He gave a copy of the letter to his supervisor, who told the employee that the letter did not exist and told the employee not to bring it up again. The supervisor did not explicitly direct the employee to destroy the letter, but the employee understood he was being advised to dispose of it.

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