Is it whistleblowing when your job is to report violations of the law?


That is the question that a former Starbucks employee is asking the NJ Supreme Court to answer. More on this case and what it could mean for actions asserted under NJ’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) after the jump…

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*** No Snow White here. And if you don’t listen to this song all the way through, we can’t be friends. ***

CEPA is remedial legislation, designed to encourage employees to report illegal or unethical workplace activities and to discourage public and private sector employers from engaging in such conduct. But what happens when that is your job; to report illegal or unethical workplace activities?

While employed at Starbucks, Kari White’s job was to ensure that her co-workers adhered to legal and operational compliance requirements. During the course of her employment, Ms. White reported both theft and health and safety issues to her superiors. She also reported that employees were boozing on the job and, in the Iselin store, were having after-hours sex parties.

*** Kindly refrain from Google-Mapping “Starbucks in Iselin, NJ.” Oh, I can see it’s too late.***

Ms. White was ultimately faced with the decision to quit or get fired. She chose the former, filed a police report, and sued Starbucks for a CEPA violation. The trial court dismissed her CEPA claim. And, in this decision, the NJ Appellate Division concluded that Ms. White did not engage in whistle-blowing activity because “the issues on which she bases her claim fall within the sphere of her job-related duties.”

Mary Pat Gallagher at the New Jersey Law Journal reports

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