New Jersey Court Analyzes Reasonable Belief of Illegal Activity in Whistleblower Cases

New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) protects employees from adverse action after he or she reports illegal or unethical activity. There are several elements to a CEPA claim, including a reasonable belief that the employer was engaging in unsavory acts. The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey recently analyzed what constitutes sufficient evidence of a reasonable belief an employer is engaging in prohibited activity, in case in which it found sufficient evidence for the case to withstand summary judgment. If you faced adverse employment action, including termination, after you engaged in protected whistleblower activity, you should meet with a seasoned New Jersey whistleblower attorney to discuss your case and what you must show to recover damages.

The Plaintiff’s Employment with the Defendant

The plaintiff accepted a position with the defendant to work as a regional manager. The defendant is a company that sells and designs business solutions and infrastructure functions for hospitals. The defendant also sponsors conferences that provide courses for healthcare providers to learn new strategies for the utilization of the defendant’s products. The defendant alleges it had concerns from the onset of the plaintiff’s employment, regarding the plaintiff’s responsiveness and level of engagement with his team. The plaintiff refutes these allegations.

The Defendant’s Allegedly Illegal Acts

Allegedly, the plaintiff was advised that a territory manager who reported to the plaintiff took a customer, who was a hospital’s cardiovascular room manager, to a course in Cleveland. The plaintiff was concerned that the customer’s attendance at the course may have violated an anti-kickback statute, and reported the customer’s attendance to human resources the following day. an investigation ensued regarding the customer’s attendance, and it is disputed whether it violated the anti-kickback statute. The plaintiff alleges he was ultimately forced to resign due to reporting illegal activity, in violation of CEPA, and filed a whistleblower claim against the defendant. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff could not have reasonably believed the defendant engaged in illegal activity.

Objectively Reasonable Belief of Illegal Activity

The court found that the plaintiff had set forth a prima facie case establishing that he was retaliated against for engaging in protected whistleblower activity. Specifically, the court stated that a jury could find that the plaintiff had an objectively reasonable belief that the defendant violated the anti-kickback statute. First, he expressed concerns that the attendance of the cardiovascular room manager violated a federal kickback statute. The court found that this showed a reaonsable belief the defendant was engaged in illegal activity, regardless of whether the reported activity actually fell under the statute. As such, the court found that the plaintiff established the first prong of a prima facie whistleblowing case.

Meet with an Experienced New Jersey Whistleblower Attorney

If you believe you were terminated in retaliation for reporting the illegal activity of your employer, it is important to hire an experienced whistleblower attorney to assist you in pursuing any damages you may be owed.  The skilled New Jersey whistleblower attorneys of The Jaffe Glenn Law Group will work diligently to help you set forth a strong case in favor of your recovery. You can contact our office at 201-687-9977 or via our online form to schedule a free and confidential meeting.

More Blog Posts:

New Jersey Court Explains When a Reduction in Duties May be a Retaliatory Act, January 15, 2019, New Jersey and New York Employment Lawyer Blog

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