The Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), New Jersey’s whistleblower protection law, is an important resource for people who opt to report wrongdoing by their employees. The NJ Supreme Court is currently reviewing CEPA as it relates to employees whose jobs require them to monitor and report on an employer’s compliance procedures. These individuals are commonly referred to as “watchdog” employees; they are hired to make sure the company is doing the right thing under laws and regulations that govern the company’s particular industry.
The general understanding of CEPA doesn’t clarify whether a person whose job duties essentially require whistleblowing activity can be covered under the employee protection act. Some people seeking to limit protections for watchdog employees question whether a person who is being paid to report violations of laws should be able to make money off their job further than their salary. In other words, aren’t they already being paid to be a whistleblower?
Proponents of protections such as CEPA ask a different question: What stops an employer from formally giving all his employees some “watch dog” duty and then having all his employees susceptible to retaliation at the employers whim?
The Supreme Court is currently reviewing one particular case on appeal which will hopefully lead to enforcing watch dog employees’ rights under CEPA and stop the efforts of potential wrong doers from limiting rights that already exist.
“The battle for freedom is the responsibility of every generation and is a continuing battle,” says Ross Begelman, experienced qui tam lawyer. “This effort to limit CEPA protections is another effort by those forces who would prefer reactionary efforts to turn back the progress we have made in NJ to another time when employees and their families who were honest and law abiding lived in fear of employers who were not honest and law abiding.”
In those days, Begelman adds, the economic and emotional security of employees’ families were always at stake. “Employees were left at the whim of dishonest employers and forced sometimes to either ignore the wrongdoing or face economic and emotional harm. CEPA was intended to protect these good people. Any effort to limit these protections is not in the public interest.”
We will report on this topic again once the NJ Supreme Court announces a decision on this issue.
If you or someone you know has information about a company you believe will uncover wrongdoing against the government, contact the experienced qui tam lawyers at Begelman & Orlow about your whistleblower case.