407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Changes to 'Whistleblower' Act
Seek to Inform Workers



Thomas D. Carver
Commissioner, Department of Labor



For almost two decades, the CEPA has attempted to keep New Jersey's workplaces ethical and open, and given workers the freedom to come forward when they suspect wrongdoing.

One of the most important missions of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development is to protect the workers of New Jersey while helping to generate successful workplaces. Regulations that promote open and honest workplace environments help us fulfill that mission. The recent amendment to the "Conscientious Employee Protection Act," better known as CEPA, will not only create a better informed, and therefore, a further empowered workforce, but they will ultimately benefit every business, public or private, in the state.

CEPA, originally enacted in 1986, made it unlawful for employers to take adverse action against employees who disclose activities which they reasonably believe are illegal, or who provide information to a public body that is investigating possible violations of the law. It also protects employees from retaliatory firing if they object or refuse to participate in any activity which they believe violates the law, is criminal or fraudulent, or is against clear public policy mandates. This "whistleblower" act has, for almost two decades, attempted to keep New Jersey's workplaces ethical and open, and given workers the freedom to come forward when they suspect wrongdoing.

However, in the wake of a multitude of corporate scandals, such as Enron and Worldcom, and the renewed focus on corporate scrutiny, federal and state governments sought even more effective policies. The Federal Government passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, granting federal statutory protection to employees who report actions that they believe are illegal under federal securities laws. Since that Act was limited to employees of publicly traded companies, New Jersey's CEPA law remained one of the most far-reaching statutes in the nation, covering both private and public employees. However, New Jersey recognized that there were still too many employees who were not adequately informed of their rights and protections under CEPA.

On September 14, 2004, the state amended CEPA to further ensure that employees were informed of their rights, protections and obligations. Since that time, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development has received questions from many employers across the state, seeking to comply with the changes, but unsure of what the amendments mean for them.

The CEPA changes boil down to two separate areas of notification: Posting of Notices, and Annual Distribution.

Posting of Notices Under the original Act, CEPA merely required New Jersey's employers to display a poster, written in English, which summarized employees' protections under CEPA.

Recognizing the needs of an increasingly diverse workplace, the new amendment requires the notice to be posted in both English and Spanish versions, and, if a majority of employees speak another language, that language as well.

The notice must also contain the name and contact information of the persons whom the employer has designated to receive written notification of policies or practices that an employee believes violate the law.


When employees are well-informed about their rights,
it promotes an honest and open work
environment, which will ultimately protect
the interests of everyone - managers and workers.


Distribution Previously, simply posting the notice enabled all employers, regardless of size, to comply with the earlier version of the law. Now, New Jersey employers with 10 or more employees must annually distribute to staff, a notice of employees' protections, obligations, rights and procedures under the Act. This can be done in either written (i.e., hard copy) or electronic (i.e., e-mail) form, but it must be done one way or the other, annually.

However, the annual distribution requirement does not apply to any employer with less than 10 employees. In fact, as of 2001, 78.4 percent of all firms in New Jersey had less than 10 employees.

An employer who fails to post the notices and distribute the required summary may face civil fines of up to $1,000 for the first violation, and up to $5,000 for additional violations.

New Jersey employers--whether private sector, state or local government-- should immediately post the English and Spanish posters in a highly visible area, easily accessible to all employees.

To ensure compliance, employers with ten or more employees should also begin to evaluate the most appropriate distribution method for their organization.

The changes in the law do not specify any particular method by which annual distribution must be conducted, but employers may want to consider distributing the notice as part of regular annual performance reviews, or distributing it as part of the payroll cycle on the same date each year. Employers also might want to consider distributing some sort of form in which employees can acknowledge they have received the CEPA notice and reviewed the information. This form, if saved in employees' personnel files, will help prove compliance in the event questions should ever arise.

Employers may also want to take this time to review employee handbooks, and ensure that all information related to CEPA is updated and correct. If employers conduct any annual trainings on workplace ethics or behavior, they may want to consider incorporating CEPA information into the trainings.

Employers should also consider designating and training an individual as the single recipient of any and all CEPA related allegations. This way, there is a single point of contact to help ensure all allegations are investigated promptly and to oversee any appropriate, corrective action, when warranted.

The CEPA amendment also requires us at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to assist employers in obtaining materials to comply with the new law. In December 2004, LWD began providing on its website, a downloadable bi-lingual sample notice which can be used for display or for distribution by employers. In addition, per the recent changes, the Department will provide notices printed in a language other than English or Spanish, at the request of the employer.

Employers can obtain sample CEPA notices for posting and/or distribution on the Department website at www.state.nj.us/labor. The link t NJLM - Changes to the Whistleblower Act

407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Changes to 'Whistleblower' Act
Seek to Inform Workers



Thomas D. Carver
Commissioner, Department of Labor



For almost two decades, the CEPA has attempted to keep New Jersey's workplaces ethical and open, and given workers the freedom to come forward when they suspect wrongdoing.

One of the most important missions of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development is to protect the workers of New Jersey while helping to generate successful workplaces. Regulations that promote open and honest workplace environments help us fulfill that mission. The recent amendment to the "Conscientious Employee Protection Act," better known as CEPA, will not only create a better informed, and therefore, a further empowered workforce, but they will ultimately benefit every business, public or private, in the state.

CEPA, originally enacted in 1986, made it unlawful for employers to take adverse action against employees who disclose activities which they reasonably believe are illegal, or who provide information to a public body that is investigating possible violations of the law. It also protects employees from retaliatory firing if they object or refuse to participate in any activity which they believe violates the law, is criminal or fraudulent, or is against clear public policy mandates. This "whistleblower" act has, for almost two decades, attempted to keep New Jersey's workplaces ethical and open, and given workers the freedom to come forward when they suspect wrongdoing.

However, in the wake of a multitude of corporate scandals, such as Enron and Worldcom, and the renewed focus on corporate scrutiny, federal and state governments sought even more effective policies. The Federal Government passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, granting federal statutory protection to employees who report actions that they believe are illegal under federal securities laws. Since that Act was limited to employees of publicly traded companies, New Jersey's CEPA law remained one of the most far-reaching statutes in the nation, covering both private and public employees. However, New Jersey recognized that there were still too many employees who were not adequately informed of their rights and protections under CEPA.

On September 14, 2004, the state amended CEPA to further ensure that employees were informed of their rights, protections and obligations. Since that time, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development has received questions from many employers across the state, seeking to comply with the changes, but unsure of what the amendments mean for them.

The CEPA changes boil down to two separate areas of notification: Posting of Notices, and Annual Distribution.

Posting of Notices Under the original Act, CEPA merely required New Jersey's employers to display a poster, written in English, which summarized employees' protections under CEPA.

Recognizing the needs of an increasingly diverse workplace, the new amendment requires the notice to be posted in both English and Spanish versions, and, if a majority of employees speak another language, that language as well.

The notice must also contain the name and contact information of the persons whom the employer has designated to receive written notification of policies or practices that an employee believes violate the law.


When employees are well-informed about their rights,
it promotes an honest and open work
environment, which will ultimately protect
the interests of everyone - managers and workers.


Distribution Previously, simply posting the notice enabled all employers, regardless of size, to comply with the earlier version of the law. Now, New Jersey employers with 10 or more employees must annually distribute to staff, a notice of employees' protections, obligations, rights and procedures under the Act. This can be done in either written (i.e., hard copy) or electronic (i.e., e-mail) form, but it must be done one way or the other, annually.

However, the annual distribution requirement does not apply to any employer with less than 10 employees. In fact, as of 2001, 78.4 percent of all firms in New Jersey had less than 10 employees.

An employer who fails to post the notices and distribute the required summary may face civil fines of up to $1,000 for the first violation, and up to $5,000 for additional violations.

New Jersey employers--whether private sector, state or local government-- should immediately post the English and Spanish posters in a highly visible area, easily accessible to all employees.

To ensure compliance, employers with ten or more employees should also begin to evaluate the most appropriate distribution method for their organization.

The changes in the law do not specify any particular method by which annual distribution must be conducted, but employers may want to consider distributing the notice as part of regular annual performance reviews, or distributing it as part of the payroll cycle on the same date each year. Employers also might want to consider distributing some sort of form in which employees can acknowledge they have received the CEPA notice and reviewed the information. This form, if saved in employees' personnel files, will help prove compliance in the event questions should ever arise.

Employers may also want to take this time to review employee handbooks, and ensure that all information related to CEPA is updated and correct. If employers conduct any annual trainings on workplace ethics or behavior, they may want to consider incorporating CEPA information into the trainings.

Employers should also consider designating and training an individual as the single recipient of any and all CEPA related allegations. This way, there is a single point of contact to help ensure all allegations are investigated promptly and to oversee any appropriate, corrective action, when warranted.

The CEPA amendment also requires us at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to assist employers in obtaining materials to comply with the new law. In December 2004, LWD began providing on its website, a downloadable bi-lingual sample notice which can be used for display or for distribution by employers. In addition, per the recent changes, the Department will provide notices printed in a language other than English or Spanish, at the request of the employer.

Employers can obtain sample CEPA notices for posting and/or distribution on the Department website at www.state.nj.us/labor. The link to the sample notice is a blue button, found on the bottom left-hand corner of this homepage, labeled "Conscientious Employee Act." Any further questions can be directed to the Office of Marketing and Communications at 609-292-7832.

Lastly, while CEPA has been designed to protect employees, New Jersey's employers should recognize the importance of this new amendment to help them as well. When employees are well-informed about their rights, it promotes an honest and open work environment, which will ultimately protect the interests of everyone - managers and workers.

 

Article published in April 2005, New Jersey Municipalities