New Jersey Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower Laws of New Jersey

A Summary of New Jersey Whistleblower Laws

The state of New Jersey follows the employment-at-will doctrine. This means employees in New Jersey can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, the state has several exceptions to this rule that are used to protect employees. They include statutory protections and common law protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation whereas common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address areas not covered by the enacted laws.

This is a summary of New Jersey Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in New Jersey

Common law Protections for Whistleblowers in New Jersey

New Jersey has a public policy that is applied as a remedy to the employment-at-will doctrine. Employees cannot be discharged for reasons that violate public policy. To determine if an employee’s wrongful discharge suit is valid, the courts usually rely on prior judicial opinions, statutes, and constitutional provisions that address cases that are similar to the employee’s. For example, if a statute endorses an employee’s right to collect a wage not less than the minimum wage, an employer who discharges an employee for invoking such a right may be found guilty of violating public policy. Some activities are considered as protected activities under New Jersey’s public policy and therefore employees cannot be discharged for engaging in such activities. They include:

  • Refusing to participate in illegal activities.
  • Reporting illegal activity to a public body.
  • Disclosing violations of workplace safety rules or laws.

Statutory Protections for Whistleblowers in New Jersey

Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA)

Employers are not allowed to in any way retaliate against an employee because the employee engaged in any of the following activities:

  • Disclosing or threatening to disclose a policy or practice of the employer that the employee reasonably believes is contrary to a law, rule, or regulation, or in the case of a licensed or health care professional, reasonably believes the quality of care is below the legal standards.
  • Providing information or testifying before a public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry into the employer’s practice or policy that is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation.
  • Providing information concerning misrepresentation or deception to a shareholder, client, patient, customer, or pensioner of the employer or government entity.
  • Providing information concerning criminal or fraudulent activity, policy, or practice that is done with the aim of deceiving or defrauding a shareholder, investor, client, patient, employee, former employee, or pensioner.
  • Objecting to or refusing to participate in illegal activities.

Disclosures under this act can be made to either a supervisor or a public body. Also, employees are required to first notify their supervisors of the policy or practice and allow the supervisor reasonable time to correct the violation. However, this does not apply if the employee reasonably believes that the violation is known to one or more supervisors of the employer or if the employee fears physical harm as a result of the disclosure. N.J. Stat. § 34:19-3.

Civil Service

No appointing authority is allowed to take or threaten to take any action against an employee in retaliation for disclosing a violation of a rule, law or regulation, governmental mismanagement, or abuse of authority. N.J. Stat § 11A:2-24.

Discrimination

It is considered unlawful employment practice for a person to take reprisals against another individual in retaliation for:

  • Opposing practices forbidden by this act.
  • Seeking legal advice regarding rights under this act.
  • Disclosing relevant information to legal counsel or governmental entity.
  • Filing a complaint under this act.
  • Testifying or assisting in a proceeding under this act.
  • Assisting another person in the exercising of a right endorsed by this act.

N.J. Stat. § 10:5-12(d).

Family Leave Act

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for:

  • Opposing outlawed practices under this act.
  • Filing a charge or instituting a proceeding under this act.
  • Providing information or testifying in a proceeding or inquiry concerning a right under this act.

Under this act, employees are entitled to a family leave of 12 weeks every 2 years to take care of their family members in case of a health condition, birth, adoption of a child, etc.

N.J. Stat. § 34:11B-9.

Hazardous Substances

Employers are not allowed to discharge, penalize, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for exercising a right endorsed by this act. N.J. Stat. § 34:5A-17.

Minimum Wage

It is against the law for an employer to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Making a complaint concerning unpaid wages to the employer, commissioner, or director.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this act.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this act.
  • Serving on a wage board.
  • Informing fellow employees of their rights with regards to wages and hours of work.

N.J. Stat. § 34:11-56a24.

Occupational Health and Safety

No person is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Exercising a right endorsed by this statute on behalf of himself, herself, or others.

N.J. Stat. § 34:6A-45.

Schools

No board of education member, school employee, student, or volunteer is allowed to falsely accuse or in any way retaliate against a victim, witness, or person with reliable information concerning harassment, bullying, or intimidation. Under this statute, persons with information concerning the harassment, bullying, or intimidation of a student are required to report the incident to the appropriate school official designated by the school district’s policy. N.J. Stat. § 18A:37-16.

Ski Lift Safety

No operator is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint concerning a violation of this act.
  • Testifying in a proceeding under this act.
  •  Instituting or causing the institution of a proceeding under this act.

N.J. Stat. § 34:4A-13.

Wage Discrimination

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute with the employer, commissioner, or any other person.
  • Instituting or causing the institution of a proceeding under this act.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this act.

N.J. Stat. § 34:11-56.6.

Workers’ Compensation

It is unlawful for an employer to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this act.

N.J. Stat. § 34:15-39.1.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in New Jersey

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, wrongful retaliation suits should be filed with the appropriate court within 2 years of the retaliatory action.

Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA)

Lawsuits under this act should be filed within 1 year of the retaliatory action.

Civil Service

Claims under this act should be filed with the New Jersey Civil Service Commission.

Minimum Wage

Complaints under this act should be filed with the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) within 180 days of the retaliation. Lawsuits can also be filed within 2 years of the retaliation.

Hazardous Substances

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor within 30 days of the retaliatory action.

Occupational Health and Safety

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the New Jersey Department of Labor within 180 days of the retaliation.

Workers’ Compensation

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the New Jersey Department of Labor within 2 years of the retaliatory action. An aggrieved employee can also choose to file a lawsuit but this should be done within 2 years of the retaliation.

Whistleblower Hotlines in New Jersey

To file a complaint with the New Jersey Department of Labor, call (609) 292-2515.

To file a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, call (609) 292-4605.

To file a complaint with the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, call 609-292-4144.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in New Jersey

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Punitive damages.
  • Injunctive relief.
  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Reinstatement of full fringe benefits.
  • Litigation costs.
  • Lost wages, benefits, and other remuneration.
  • Plus any other relief deemed appropriate by the court.

Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA)

Employers who are found guilty of violating this act may be liable for a civil fine of not more than $10,000 for the first violation and a civil fine not exceeding $20,000 for subsequent violations.

Discrimination

Employers who are found guilty of violating this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for reinstatement to previous job position with back pay and interest.

Family Leave Act

Employers who are found guilty of violating this act may be liable for a civil fine of not more than $2,000 for the first violation and a civil fine not exceeding $5,000 for the second and each subsequent offense.

Minimum Wage

Employers who are found guilty of violating this act may be liable for a civil fine ranging from $500 to $1000 or by imprisonment for 10 to 90 days, or by both fine and imprisonment for the first violation and a civil fine ranging from $1000 to $2000 or by imprisonment for 10 to 100 days, or by both fine and imprisonment for a second or subsequent violation.

Ski Lift Safety

Operators who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction may be liable for a fine ranging from $50 to $200.

Wage Discrimination

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction may be punished by a fine ranging from $50 to $200 or by imprisonment for 10 to 90 days, or by both fine and imprisonment.

Workers’ Compensation

Violators of this act may be punished by a fine ranging from $100 to $1000 or by imprisonment not exceeding 60 days, or by both fine and imprisonment.

More New Jersey Laws

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