The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) (NJSA 34:19-1 et. seq.) protects employees from retaliation by their employer if the employee discloses or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or a public body some violation of law or other fraudulent or criminal activity being committed by the Company. The employee is also protected if it testifies against the Company before a public body on the company’s violation of some rule or regulation. Above all, the employee is also protected if they refuse to participate in some activity that they reasonably and objectively believe violates the law or regulation or is against a clear mandate of public policy concerning public health, safety or welfare or protection of the environment. New Jersey is one of the few states in the country that offers such comprehensive employee protections against a company’s retaliatory actions. The New Jersey Supreme Court has held that your belief that the company is violating another jurisdiction’s law may also be a valid claim under CEPA. See Mehlman v. Mobil Oil Corp., 153 N.J. 163 (1997) In this age of multi-national corporations, you may be assigned to a international project and hence, would have an actionable claim based on violation of that nation’s laws as well. Our courts have also required that the employee have an “objectively reasonable belief” that at the time that he objects, the company’s action violates some law or public policy. If you believe that you have been retaliated against or are about to be retaliated against because of your objection to the company’s illegal or fraudulent action, you should consider the following:
- Make sure you are right about your objection; i.e. take the time to do a little research to confirm that the grounds of your objection are actually correct or that your “objectively reasonable belief” is well founded;
- Document your objections and the grounds for same; in all likelihood you may be able to clear up the issue by providing the information rather than just objecting without basis; and
- If the company continues on its course of conduct, gather proof as your termination may be imminent; and
- Call an attorney – you need one now.