Does “Blowing the Whistle” Include Reporting On Workplace Problems As Part of an Employee’s Everyday Duties?

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A recent unpublished Appellate Division decision, White v. Starbucks Corp., 2011 WL 6111882 (Dec. 9, 2011), provides a textbook example of how New Jersey’s whistleblower statute, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J.S.A. § 34:19-1 to -8 (“CEPA”), is being used by employees to sue under circumstances far broader than ever was contemplated by the Legislature in passing the act. The White case addresses a critical issue: if an employee/manager is tasked with ensuring workplace safety, and writes up complaints to upper managers about workplace safety issues and hazards as part of her job responsibilities rather than to object to illegal or dangerous employer practices, can the employee claim down the road (after she is fired), that she was previously “blowing the whistle” on illegal activities?

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