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New Jersey Whistleblower Law Amended to Require Annual Written Notice of Rights to Employees

By Timothy D. Speedy
  • October 12, 2004

The New Jersey legislature amended the state's whistleblower law, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, to require employers with more than 10 employees to provide an annual written or electronic notice of rights and obligations under the Act. The annual notice requirement under CEPA is in addition to the statute's prior requirements regarding notice.  The amendment was effective immediately upon passage on September 14, 2004.

Under CEPA, employers are forbidden to retaliate against individuals who; (a) disclose (or threaten to disclose) to a supervisor or public body any activity, policy or practice of the employer, or another employer who has a business relationship with the employer, that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of a law, or a rule or regulation promulgated pursuant to a law; (b) provide information or testimony to a public body conducting an investigation, hearing or inquiry into any violation of law by the employer, or another employer who has a business relationship with the employer; or (c) object or refuse to participate in any activity, policy or practice which the employee reasonably believes is (1) in violation of a law, or a rule or regulation promulgated pursuant to a law, (2) fraudulent or criminal, or (3) incompatible with a clear mandate of public policy concerning the public health, safety or welfare or protection of the environment.

The amended law requires the posting and annual notices be in English and Spanish, and, at the employer's discretion, any other language spoken by the majority of employees.

The amendment does not specify how an employer may accomplish the annual notice distribution. Possible means include payroll stuffers, department meetings, performance evaluation meetings, and electronic distribution channels.

A sample notice in English and Spanish is available from the New Jersey Department of Labor.  Copies of the posting can be obtained from the N.J. Department of Labor and Workforce Development, John Fitch Plaza, P.O. Box 110, Trenton, New Jersey 08625 [or call Janette at the NJDOL (609-777-3200) to request a copy].  

Please note, however, that CEPA requires that the notice to employees must include the name of the management person responsible for receiving written reports regarding an activity, policy or practice which is believed to be in violation of the law.  The NJDOL notice only refers to a "contact person" to answer questions or provide additional information regarding CEPA.  Jackson Lewis suggests that employers modify the NJDOL notice to expressly identify the management person to whom reports under the Act are to be made.  

A sample notice suitable for distribution to employees has also been prepared by Jackson Lewis attorneys, in English and Spanish.  The written notice is intended to meet CEPA's new requirement to give "annual written or electronic notice" to all employees regarding their rights and obligations under the law.  

Employers should also be aware that in October the New Jersey Legislature approved another amendment to CEPA.  This amendment enhances the scope and strengthens the enforcement provisions of CEPA by expanding the definition of reporting (i.e., "whistleblowing") and increasing CEPA's remedies.   

It is expected that Gov. McGreevey will sign the amendment into law before his resignation on November 15, 2004.  Once enacted, the amendment will require changes to the posting and employee notices.   

We will keep you apprised of all developments.  

©2004 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Reproduction of this material in whole or in part is prohibited without the express prior written consent of Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm that built its reputation on providing workplace law representation to management. Founded in 1958, the firm has grown to more than 900 attorneys in major cities nationwide serving clients across a wide range of practices and industries including government relations, healthcare and sports law. More information about Jackson Lewis can be found at www.jacksonlewis.com.

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