On June 9, 2011 the NJ Supreme Court decided an important case under NJ’s whistleblower law, commonly known as CEPA. (If you really must ask, it’s short for “Conscientious Employee Protection Act.”) The case is Donelson v. DuPont Chambers Works.
CEPA has been around since 1986 and has a well-established history of decisional law through the courts. The Donelson case involves a new twist on CEPA, never before addressed by the Court, and it drew the attention of the National Employment Lawyers Association/New Jersey (an organization of plainitffs’ lawyers), and the Academy of New Jersey Management (self-evident), both of which filed friend of the court briefs. Taking diametrically opposed positions, as you might expect.
The narrow but important issue the court decided was “whether recovery for economic losses associated with back and front pay requires proof of actual or constructive discharge” in a CEPA case. The twist here was that the plaintiff went out on disability after making his complaint about safety conditions in the workplace, following a period in which he claimed that he was subjected to harsh retaliatory treatment, and never returned.
DuPont claimed…(read more)