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CEPA Does Not Protect New Jersey Whistleblowers Terminated for Doing Their Jobs

When you are an employee who witnesses unlawful, fraudulent or hazardous conduct by co-workers or supervisory personnel, you may find that you are in an awkward position. If you report the activity to managers, you may be afraid of some form of retribution from your employer, while remaining silent about the transgressions may expose you to liability, or put others at risk of loss or injury.

The Conscientious Employee Protection Act 1 (CEPA) is designed to protect employees from retaliatory termination for reporting such violations, but the case of White vs. Starbucks makes it important to obtain legal advice before assuming you will be protected by CEPA.  White was a regional manager for Starbucks who was charged with a variety of managerial duties, including safety and security in district stores, and overseeing legal and operational compliance requirements.

White reported a number of illegal activities, such as theft, sex parties after hours, transmittal of pornography via email, unsanitary conditions and other violations of law and practices that threatened public health.  When managers in the stores in her district complained about the regional manager, White was terminated by the company.

After her termination, White filed a claim alleging she was a victim of retaliatory termination for acting as a whistleblower under CEPA.  The Appellate division upheld the dismissal of White’s case because she was simply performing her job.  The court pointed out that if an employee could claim to be a whistleblower under CEPA by carrying out one’s job functions then most managers and supervisors involved in enforcing compliance with law, safety regulations and public policy could seek damages under CEPA.

While there are many protections provided to employees under CEPA and other laws that protect whistleblowers, it is important to seek legal advice early so that you can determine your rights and options.  The procedural requirements of laws that protect employees that disclose unlawful, fraudulent or other unsafe conduct in the workplace can be complicated.

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Neil H. Deutsch
Retired

About Neil H. Deutsch has been practicing law for over 35 years and is known as a skilled negotiator in employment and discrimination law. He believes in a bottom-line approach of risk analysis and cost effectiveness for his clients. "Case evaluation is something we take seriously," says Mr. Deutsch who seeks top net dollar for…

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Bruce L. Atkins
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About Bruce L. Atkins is regarded as one of New Jersey’s premier practitioners of employment and civil litigation. He has been selected to the New Jersey Super Lawyers prestigious list every year since 2005.  This honor, bestowed upon a recipient by the votes of his peers, is a powerful nod to the skill Mr. Atkins…

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Adam J. Kleinfeldt
Partner

About Adam J. Kleinfeldt joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in March of 2015.  He primarily represents individuals in employment litigations such as discrimination, retaliation, and whistle blowing matters.  He has extensive experience in all phases of the litigation process. Adam has obtained significant results for some of his clients, including a $525,000 jury verdict…

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Diane Englander Peyser
Attorney

About Diane Englander Peyser joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in September 2018 where she represents employees in wrongful termination, retaliation, harassment, and discrimination matters. Prior to joining Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C., Diane represented clients in all aspects of employment law on behalf of employees involving unemployment appeals, claims of sexual harassment, LGBT discrimination,…

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Debra M. McGarvey
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About Debra M. McGarvey joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in December 2019. She has extensive experience defending employees and employers in state and federal court in employment litigation matters. She has represented clients on various issues arising out of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA),…

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