The Supreme Court Claims Watchdog Employees Could Sue Under CEPA

On July 15, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that “watchdog” employees are entitled to the protections afforded by the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”). In Lippman v. Ethicon, Inc., the Court explained that a “watchdog” employee is one whose job duties include ensuring the employer’s compliance with a relevant “standard of care” and knowing when that “standard of care” is not met. The plaintiff, Dr. Lippman, was a doctor whose job duties included providing his medical opinion about the safety of Ethicon’s pharmaceutical products. Dr. Lippman believed he was terminated because he expressed his opinion to Ethicon’s management that several of its products were dangerous, violated the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and/or violated various state laws.

In ruling that “watchdog” employees could sue under CEPA, the Court reiterated that CEPA is, at its core, a liberal and remedial law that protects and encourages employees to report illegal or unethical conduct in the workplace and discourages employers from engaging in such illegal or unethical conduct. The Court also found that CEPA had an “inclusive” and expansive definition of employee, which it read to include those employees, like Dr. Lippman, who performed “watchdog” duties. Furthermore, the Court found that CEPA contained no language indicating that an employee’s job duties could affect whether or not he or she could bring a CEPA claim against his or her employer.

The Court’s decision in Lippman v. Ethicon is a major victory for employees throughout New Jersey. If you believe that you have been the victim of retaliation because you are a whistleblower, please contact the Law Offices of Damian Christian Shammas, LLC to discuss your situation.