Whistleblower Wins NJ Supreme Court Appeal

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a whistleblower in the case of Tartaglia v. PaineWebber, granting the plaintiff a new trial on her claims of wrongful discharge. Ms. Tartaglia claimed that her employer fired her after she complained internally about an alleged conflict of interest in the company’s dealings with its financial advisors, and about sexually suggestive remarks made by two supervisors. At the 2004 trial, the court dismissed Ms. Tartaglia’s wrongful discharge claim, holding that she did not first complain, or at least threaten to complain, to an external agency or authority about the alleged misconduct.

The NJ Supreme Court overturned that ruling, sending the case back for a new trial. The Court held that whistleblowing employees are not required to bring their complaints to outside authorities before filing suit. Rather, the employee can make a good faith objection or complaint to perceived wrongoing internally, or take other action “reasonably calculated to prevent the objectionable conduct,” said the Court.

The Court also addressed plaintiff’s claim that the company destroyed evidence to conceal its retaliatory motive in terminating her employment. The Court stated that when an employment plaintiff comes forth with proof that relevant evidence has been destroyed by the employer, the trial court should permit the jury to decide whether such “spoliation” occurred, rather than decide the issue itself.

My heartfelt congratulations go to Ms. Tartaglia and her excellent attorney, Frederic Gross, Esq., on their important victory on behalf of all New Jersey employees.