CEPA Protection For “Watchdog” Employees? New Jersey Supreme Court To Decide

On March 14, 2014, the New Jersey Supreme Court granted certification in Lippman v. Ethicon, Inc., 432 N.J. Super. 378 (App. Div. 2013), agreeing to review whether “watchdog” employees, i.e., employees responsible for monitoring and reporting employer compliance with relevant laws and regulations, are protected whistleblowers under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) by virtue of performing their day-to-day watchdog job duties. N.J.S.A. 34:19-1 et seq. In the underlying action, the Vice President of Clinical Trials alleged wrongful termination under CEPA because he advocated for the recall of products he deemed dangerous to the public. Ethicon argued that the vice president’s actions did not constitute whistleblowing activities because they fell wholly within the sphere of his job-related duties and thus were not protected acts under CEPA. The Appellate Division reversed, establishing a new test under which “watchdog” employees could establish protection under CEPA for their work-related conduct. The New Jersey Supreme Court will now settle this question.

Note: This article was published in the May 2014 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.

 


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