Mark Law Firm Blog

Fired by an employer after filing a discrimination claim

Posted by Jamison Mark on May 8, 2014 1:10:00 PM
New Jersey Attorneys

An April 2011 decision of the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the policy behind CEPA violation claims and allowing an employee to proceed on his whistleblower claim. Hester, a Caucasian male, former employee at the Winslow Township Board of Education (Board), claimed that the Board violated the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, when a member of its school board began issuing poor job performance evaluations to Caucasian employees.

The Court explains that a CEPA violation exist where four factors have been established: (1) an employee reasonably believed his or her employer's conduct violated a law, rule, regulation pursuant to law or public policy mandate; (2) he or she performed a "whistle-blowing" activity ( N.J.S.A. 34;19-3[ ]); (3) an adverse employment action was taken against the employee; and (4) a causal connection exists between the whistle-blowing activity and the adverse employment action. The core issue discussed by the Court was whether the initiation of a civil action was considered a whistle-blowing activity in light of the facts of the present case.

Hester alleged that the Board discriminated against him in violation of his civil rights (racial discrimination by a public body is contrary to law). Hester first submitted a reverse discrimination claim to the District's Director of Human Resources and later filed a civil complaint. Hester's employment was terminated five weeks after his fourth annual contract had been signed; nine days following the service of the complaint. Based on these facts, the Court found that the first, third and fourth prongs of a CEPA violation had been met.

As to the second prong, an employer may not take retaliatory actions against an employee who discloses or threatens to disclose to a public body "an activity ... of the employer ... that the employee reasonably believes ... is in violation of a law...." N.J.S.A. 34:19-3a(1). Public body includes the Superior Court of New Jersey and that employer includes a board of education. The Court therefore concluded that the filing of a civil complaint against an employer alleging racial discrimination satisfies the disclosure to a public body requirement of the statute, and that the discrimination cannot be considered a private disagreement. The filing in such a case is, thus, whistle-blowing.

When termination follows a complaint, which is considered whistle-blowing, a CEPA claim may be triggered. If have been retaliated against due to filing a lawsuit or an EEOC Complaint or if you have participated in and/or objected to the actions of your employer, or participated in an investigation and as a result have been terminated, suspended or demoted, contact Mark Law Firm, LLC - employment attorneys specializing in Whistleblower claims.

If you have any questions regarding a CEPA violation, or any other employment matter, call Mark Law Firm, attorneys who specialize in employment law. Contact us at 908-626-1001 or 973-440-2311 or tell us your story by clicking the "contact us" page.

Topics: Wrongful Termination