Based on your perspective, whistleblowers can be brave individuals who take a stand against misconduct or troublemakers who unreasonably cause headaches for organizations. Regardless of your personal beliefs, the state of New Jersey has established criteria for the protection of whistleblowers. Both employers and employees alike should be aware of their provisions.
The first statute to look for when considering whistleblower protections is the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, also known as the Whistleblower Act. This law strictly prohibits an employer from firing an employee who either discloses, or threatens to disclose, violations of the law to a supervisor or public body, provides information to a public body conducting an investigation, reveals deceptions or misrepresentations, provides information regarding perceived criminal or fraudulent activity, or objects to, or refuses to participate in, such conduct. There are similar rules for medical professionals and improper quality of patient care.
There is an exception to the protections provided by the Whistleblower Act. Disclosures made to a public body are not protected unless the whistleblowing employee alerted his or her supervisor of the information in the disclosure via written notice. The employer must also have a reasonable opportunity to correct the related activity, policy, or practice. However, such notice to the employer is not required if the employee reasonably believes that the activity, policy, or practice is known to one or more supervisors of the employee or where the employee fears physical harm as a result of the written notice, provided that it is an emergency situation.
The New Jersey False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to bring suit against wrongdoers. This act concerned claims submitted to state health programs for payment and is similar to the federal statute. Under the False Claims Act a whistleblower can bring a lawsuit on behalf of the State of New Jersey against the alleged wrongdoer. If the suit is successful, the whistleblower will retain a percentage of the damages, potentially totaling millions of dollars.
Whistleblowers can also sue their employers if they have been retaliated against for whistleblowing. Whistleblowers can file suit if they have been fired, demoted, disciplined, harassed or suffered any other negative consequences as a result of blowing the whistle. Whistleblowers can also sue for a constructive discharge. This happens when an employer does not fire a whistleblower but instead makes working conditions so unbearable the whistleblower is forced to quit. This practice comes with the same repercussions as firing a whistleblower.
If you need legal advice concerning whistleblowing, Stone Law can help you whether you are an employer or employee. You can contact Stone Law at 732-444-6303 or leave us a message on our website.