What is a Whistleblower?

Employees who object to illegal conduct by their employers are called whistleblowers and certain state and federal laws protect them if the company retaliates by firing them or taking other adverse actions.


The New Jersey Whistleblower Law

New Jersey has a very broad, protective whistleblower law known as the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), N.J.S.A. 34:19-1 et seq. that prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who objects to or refuses to participate in conduct that violates a statute or regulation, or that is fraudulent, or that endangers public health and safety, including the welfare of patients under medical care.

If a jury finds that an employer has violated CEPA, it may award compensatory and punitive damages. Our firm has achieved large jury verdicts for whistleblowers who have, for example, objected to dangerously high levels of benzene in gasoline, and who have objected to a chemical manufacturer operating a reactor that was liable to explode and release dangerous gasses. We have successfully represented a municipal prosecutor who was fired because she objected to corrupt behavior by a sitting judge and we have represented a Chief Financial Officer who refused to cheat employees out of severance pay.

The New York Whistleblower Law

New York has whistleblower protections that are weaker than New Jersey’s. However, New York does protect those who object to corporate practices that endanger life. The New York Whistleblower Law, N.Y. Labor Law §§ 740 – 741, prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who object to company actions that create and present a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety, or which constitutes health care fraud. Also New York State has a provision in its State False Claims Act that protects whistle blowers who complain of tax fraud on the State or efforts by companies to financially cheat the state. New York City’s False Claims Act protects whistleblowers who object to the conduct of New York City companies that financially cheat the City.

Federal Whistleblower Laws

There are various federal whistle blower laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank laws that protect whistleblowers who complain of company actions that cheat shareholders or investors. There are specific federal whistleblower laws that protect workers who complain of safety issues at the workplace under the protection of OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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