The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division granted a new trial to a former Toyota Universe, Inc. employee that filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the corporation, claiming she was fired after reporting them to state agencies for age discrimination and labor law violations.
The appellate court judges unanimously agreed that the plaintiff did not receive a fair trial, because the presiding judge had denied a U.S. Department of Labor audit as evidence that the company had been guilty of labor law violations in the past.
The appellate court determined that the presiding judge in the original trial had acted within his jurisdiction by prohibiting the Labor Department’s audit, because he felt it would prejudice the jury. But in doing so, he denied crucial evidence that supported the plaintiff’s claims. The audit showed that Toyota Universe, Inc. had violated New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) by failing to compensate employees for overtime.
Former Employee Claims Retaliation
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claims that she was fired in retaliation for reporting Toyota Universe, Inc. to state and federal labor agencies, and to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in April 2012. Corporate executives confronted the plaintiff about the charges, which resulted in a heated dispute. She was fired one month later.
The employer claims that the decision to terminate the employee was made before charges were filed, because she was not working cooperatively with other employees, but that they had delayed her firing to avoid an employee shortage. The employer also claims that the plaintiff had asked to be fired, so that she could collect unemployment benefits, but changed her mind later.
Upon review of the facts in the original trial, the appellate judges concluded that the Labor Department audit would have provided substantial evidence to support the plaintiff’s belief that Toyota Universe, Inc. was in violation of state and federal labor laws. The plaintiff’s claims of being denied overtime pay and pay raises that were offered to younger employees are indeed violations of these laws.
Whistleblowers that report illegal activity by an employer are protected from retaliation by state and federal laws. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) offers protection from discrimination, such as that reported by the plaintiff in the case against Toyota Universe, Inc.
Failing to provide pay increases that were offered to younger employees falls under protections afforded by the NJLAD. Employers that fire employees that report illegal activity can be held liable for violating federal laws that protect whistleblowers from such action.
Marlton Employment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Provide Counsel and Representation to Whistleblowers
If you or someone you know is considering or has filed a whistleblower lawsuit, the experienced team of Marlton employment lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. can help ensure your rights are protected. Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation.
We represent clients throughout New Jersey.