EANJ Wins Major Case for Employers

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New Jersey’s whistleblower-protection law, called the Conscientious Employee Protection Act or CEPA, is one of the most far reaching in the country, experts say. It was enacted in 1989 and signed by then-Governor Kean who emphasized the law’s purpose to promote the exposure of “illegal activities” of employers. When Kari White was hired a regional manager for Starbucks in New Jersey, her management style was friendly but no nonsense and she passed her training with solid reviews.

She was hired to maintain order and efficiency within her region of nine establishments in Essex and Union counties but almost immediately she began complaining to her superiors about employee theft,  poor refrigeration of food items,  improper sexual relations between employees and drinking on the job.

According to management, White had the authority to fix these problems but was a difficult manager.  According to the company, her management style was so abrasive, that employees refused to work for her.

Ultimately, White was fired but sued  under the state’s whistleblower-protection law, alleging that she was fired in retaliation for revealing health and safety violations within her region.

According to EANJ “the purpose of [whistleblower law] is to protect the public and the conscientious employee; its purpose is not to litigate controversies arising out of the routine discharge of job responsibilities. Such a purpose would transform every routine employee disclosure or refusal into a civil action.  It would also suppress job advancement as employers would think twice about assigning more job responsibility if they thought that every employee who complained about lack of time or resources could sue as a whistleblower.”

Agreeing with EANJ and Starbucks' attorneys, a panel of the N.J. Appellate Division held that an employee "who reports conduct, as part of his or her job, is not a whistle-blower whose activity is protected under CEPA." 

Click here for copy of Court's decision.