NJ Top Court Affirms Watchdog Employees’ Rights to be Protected after Blowing the Whistle

Let’s say your job was to oversee certain activities at work and report instances of wrongdoing. In essence, you are getting paid to be a potential whistleblower – should you come across information that would have an adverse effect on your company. There are many people in New Jersey, especially at pharmaceutical firms headquartered throughout the state, who have jobs that, by definition, make them whistleblowers.

A recent question being debated in New Jersey courts is this: Does New Jersey’s whistleblower protection law CEPA (the Conscientious Employee Protection Act) apply to employees who are getting paid to be whistleblowers?

According to a ruling that came down from the New Jersey Supreme Court this month, the answer is a resounding “yes.” The court found, unanimously, that so-called watchdog employees absolutely have whistleblower protection under CEPA, despite their position or job duties.

Additionally, the Top Court said, those employees do not have an enhanced burden of proof in these cases.

The particular case that the NJ Supreme Court ruled on was brought by Dr. Joel Lippman who claimed part of his position as a vice president at two of J&J’s subsidiaries, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical and Ethicon, was to participate as a board member in an effort to determine whether drugs were dangerous and necessitated expensive recalls. After years of sitting on various boards in favor of and against recalls and watching what he believed to be instances of wrongdoing, Dr. Lippman reported the activity. He brought a lawsuit under CEPA contending he was fired and retaliated against for “blowing the whistle.”

In commenting on the ruling, Ross Begelman of whistleblower law firm Begelman & Orlow, said in finding for the plaintiff, the Supreme Court took the common sense and traditional approach. He added the “Court corrected a wrong that was done to whistleblowers whose job it was to report wrongdoing made by the courts below.”

The purpose of CEPA is to protect employees in New Jersey who report wrongdoing. “Not to protect employees whose job it is to report wrongdoing from retaliation has no legal or logical foundation,” Begelman said. “It is just a shame that good people had to endure retaliating from bad employers and that sometime the courts and judicial system does not protect them, even when a fair reading of the law would offer them that protection. In this case justice prevailed.”

If you believe you have information that would uncover fraudulent activity against the government, or you believe your rights as a whistleblower have been violated, please contact Ross Begelman right away for a free consultation about your case.

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