There are various laws at the federal and state level that make it illegal for an employer to terminate or take other adverse action against an employee who makes a complaint about illegal or unsafe working conditions, refuses to work under such conditions, or engages in some other protected whistleblower activity. The purpose of these laws is to ensure that employees can report their concerns about safety and other illegal activity to their employer or the government without the fear of possible retaliation by their employers. If an employee is fired, demoted, or suffers other adverse workplace action because they “blew the whistle” on unsafe or illegal working conditions, the employee may be entitled to reinstatement of their job, lost wages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Below are just a few examples of the types of whistleblower protection laws that exist. Ryan and James have been successful in handling matters where employees were terminated in violation of whistleblower protection laws.
New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act
The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) provides broad protections for employees working in New Jersey who report, or refuse to participate in, employer activity that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of a law, rule or regulation, or is otherwise fraudulent or criminal. CEPA prohibits New Jersey employers from terminating, suspending, demoting, or taking other adverse action against an employee for engaging in such “protected activity.” Employees who have been retaliated against by their employer for engaging in such protected activity may be entitled to reinstatement of their job, lost wages and benefits, damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Federal Railroad Safety Act: Railroad Workers
The Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) makes it unlawful for a railroad employer “discharge, demote, suspend, reprimand, or in any other way discriminate against an employee” for (among many other things) “reporting, in good faith, a hazardous safety or security condition.” 49 U.S.C. § 20109(b)(1). Other types of protected activity under the FRSA include but are not limited to: reporting a workplace-related injury or illness; reporting to a governmental regulatory or law enforcement agency facts regarding a workplace accident that resulted in injury or death to an individual or damage to property in connection to railroad transportation; filing an FRSA complaint; refusing to violate or assist in the violation of any Federal law, rule, or regulation relating to railroad safety or security; and more.
Surface Transportation Assistance Act:
Commercial Truck Drivers, Mechanics and Freight Handlers
The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) prohibits employers from terminating an employee for filing a complaint regarding violation of a commercial motor vehicle safety regulation or rule. Moreover, the STAA makes it illegal for an employer to terminate or take other adverse action against an employee who refuses to operate a commercial motor vehicle if: “(i) the operation violates a regulation, standard, or order of the United States related to commercial motor vehicle safety, health, or security; or
(ii) the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public because of the vehicle's hazardous safety or security condition.” 49 U.S.C. §31105(a)(1)(B).