The New Jersey Supreme Court issued an important decision this week which is being hailed as a great victory by plaintiff’s employment lawyers. The issue before the Court was whether so-called “watchdog” employees were entitled to protection under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, New Jersey’s whistleblower protection statute. “Watchdog employees” are those whose regular job duties include blowing the whistle, such as an internal auditor, a quality assurance professional, or a retail store manager. Under a previous decision of the Court, some employers successfully argued that such employees are not entitled to whistleblower protection — they were merely doing their job. However, in the recent case of Lippmann v. Ethicon, the Court rejected that argument, reasoning that the nature of an employee’s position and job duties does not take away their whistleblower rights.
The Court’s decision upholds the legislative intent behind the whistleblower statute, which is to encourage as many employees as possible to report actions of their employer which are unsafe or illegal. If your employer is engaging in conduct which you reasonably believe to be reportable or objectionable under the whistleblower law, you should consult with a knowledgeable employment attorney before taking action.