In August, a former New Jersey transit employee brought suit against her former employer and her union after she was allegedly retaliated against for being a whistleblower. The employee had reported that the agency was failing to allow for engineers to do the required safety inspections of the trains in order to increase the number of trips done each day, thus violating the law and placing riders at risk. Her employer then claimed that she was fired due to driving a train too fast and violating a stop signal – allegations that she denies. Her lawsuit also names the head of the union that she sought representation from as well as specific New Jersey transit employees who were part of her disciplinary hearings. She is not only seeking compensation for economic losses, but also compensation for emotional distress and mental anguish, attorneys’ and expert fees, and expungement of all references related to disciplinary action.
She is not the only individual currently involved in a whistleblower complaint against NJ Transit: Another employee, who previously served as a chief compliance officer, claims that he was fired after bringing attention to a number of concerning safety violations.
The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA)
CEPA protects whistleblowers, defining the act of whistleblowing as an employee disclosing or threatening to disclose an employer’s activity when the employee reasonably believes that the activity is a violation of the law or against public policy. In order to successfully bring a claim under the law, whistleblowing employees (with the assistance of an employment law attorney) must prove that:
- They reasonably believed that the activity reported is a violation of the law or against public policy;
- The activity qualifies as “whistleblowing” or another “protected activity” under the law;
- The employees “blew the whistle” against the employer, which can include simply refusing to participate in the activity or threatening to disclose the conduct; and
- As a result, the employees suffered retaliatory action, which can include being demoted, terminated, suspended, or suffering from similar adverse action. Here, a “more likely than not” standard applies, whereby the adverse action “more than likely” occurred due to the whistleblowing activity. Note that the whistleblowing activity does not have to be the only cause for the adverse event; simply a part of it.
If You are a Whistleblower, Contact Our Marlton or Red Bank, New Jersey Employment Attorneys
Whistleblowers play a critical role in ensuring that employers do not engage in illegal or unsafe practices, and our New Jersey employment lawyers pride themselves on securing justice for them if they have been retaliated against as a result. Contact us today to find out more about our legal services.