In a case being closely monitored by the business community, the New Jersey Supreme Court is considering whether so-called “watchdog employees” can be protected by the state’s whistleblower law if they are fired for, in essence, doing their jobs.
The court heard arguments Jan. 20 in a case in which a former executive of a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary alleges he was fired for opposing the release or demanding the recall of products he believed posed a danger to the public.
In Lippman v. Ethicon, the court is being asked to determine whether watchdog employees, who are responsible for monitoring and reporting on their employers’ compliance with laws, rules and regulations, can sue under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) if they are fired.
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association and the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute were two of the pro-industry groups that participated as amici.
Their attorney, Adam Saravay, said that if the Appellate Division ruling stands, it would rewrite the language of CEPA.
“It would be difficult to replace employees who do their jobs poorly,” said Saravay, of Newark’s McCarter & English. “That’s bad for business and bad for consumers.”
An employee is not engaged in a protected activity if he or she is doing his or her job, Saravay said.
“You cannot protect an expression of concern about a potential practice,” Saravay said.Copyright © 2019 McCarter & English, LLP. All Rights Reserved