New Jersey’s Supreme Court is considering whether the state’s whistleblower law that shields workers who report wrongdoing should include employees who register complaints as part of their regular duties.
Attorney Francis Dee, representing Ethicon Inc., said Tuesday those protections do not apply to those employees.
“If it’s your job and the employer is paying you to raise these issues, to give advice, then that’s not protected,” Dee said.
Arguing on behalf of a doctor who claims Ethicon dismissed him because he opposed products over safety concerns, attorney Bruce McMoran said the protections should apply to workers such as his client who voice complaints during internal discussions.
“You don’t have to wait until somebody gets hurt or breaks the law,” McMoran said. “The statute is broadly construed to effect its remedial purpose of encouraging legitimate complaints and deterring employer wrongdoing.”
Justice Barry Albin questioned whether there’s a disincentive for someone on a quality control board to speak up about the dangers of a product merely to be fired for doing so.
“Who’s going to be left to object under this policy if a company decides to get rid of anyone who’s concerned about the health and safety of a product?” Albin said.
Business groups say changes to the whistleblower law should be left to lawmakers, not the courts.
Further, applying protections to employees who complain about potential problems would make it difficult for companies to take action against those workers who do their jobs poorly, the business groups said.