The federal government has its whistleblowing statutes that protect workers from retaliation when they report impropriety in their workplace. Like almost every state, New Jersey also has laws on the issue. In this state, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, known more informally as its “Whistleblower Act,” is designed to protect these employees.
There are specific steps that the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development notes that employers should take to avoid exposing themselves to legal liability.
How do employers end up crossing the line on retaliation?
Employers need to be conscious of the situations that can — ultimately — lead to accusations of retaliation by an employee. According to New Jersey labor officials, retaliation is most likely to occur after:
- Instances in which an employee threatens or actually discloses practices or policies that the worker deems as unlawful (whether carried out by an employer or colleague)
- A worker’s compliance with or testifying before an investigative body regarding their employer or colleagues’ illegal actions
- Upon disclosure of information about employer deception to customers, investors, shareholders, employees or government bodies
- Instances in which employees refuse to engage in unethical, fraudulent or criminal activity
New Jersey law does describe how employees must give written notice to their supervisor of any impropriety so that they can correct an issue before waging any retaliation claims. This isn’t a requirement if one or more supervisors already know about the issue, it’s an emergency matter, or an employee fears physical harm, however.
When employers are confronted with any of these situations, they need to proceed carefully.
What to do when you’re facing a complex situation with an employee
You should take any whistleblowing and retaliation allegations seriously. Your company’s reputation and financial wellbeing are on the line in such instances, after all. An experienced business litigation attorney with experience in representing employers in whistleblower claims. An early consultation with an attorney is smart.