Measure Would Protect Employees Who Disclose Waste of Public Funds from Employer Retaliation
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg which would extend whistleblower protections to employees who disclose any waste of public funds or incidents of governmental abuse or mismanagement was approved by the Senate Labor Committee today by a vote of 5-0, with one abstention.
“When a conscientious employee voices concerns about governmental waste and abuse, they should be protected from employer retaliation under the same standards as private-sector whistleblowers,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “Considering the high cost of property taxes and the need to preserve limited public resources, we need to foster an open environment in which people can bring their concerns to the appropriate venue without fear of employer retaliation. This bill would make sure that employees feel safe and secure in their employment before they raise issue with potential government waste, fraud or abuse.”
The bill, S-2839, would expand the statutory protections under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) – New Jersey’s whistleblower protection law – to protect employees from retaliation after disclosing any waste of public funds of incidents of governmental abuse or mismanagement. Under the bill, employees would be protected from retaliation by an employer for whistleblower disclosure, testimony, objection or refusal to participate when the employee’s actions are the result of a reasonable belief that a practice of policy of the employer – or another employer in a business relationship with the whistleblower’s employer – is either a waste of public funds, or amounts to gross mismanagement or abuse of authority when the employer in question is a governmental entity.
Under current law, a whistleblower is protected from retaliation when they disclose, testify or refuse to participate in actions by an employer that they deem to be a criminal or fraudulent misrepresentation or a violation of law, rule or regulation. This bill would extend whistleblower protections when employer actions don’t extend to the point of criminality, but do amount to waste and abuse of the public trust.
“Certainly, some acts of government waste and abuse rise to the level of criminal action,” said Senator Weinberg. “However, any time there’s reasonable concern that public resources are being wasted or mismanaged, I would hope conscientious individuals can come forward without fear of losing their jobs. Whether an action violates law or is simply, intrinsically wrong, whistleblowers need to have the freedom from retaliation needed to voice their concerns.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.