In an important employment law decision, last month the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that an employee can pursue a retaliation claim under New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) even though his alleged whistleblowing activity has some relationship to his rights under the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between his employer and his union.
Salvatore Puglia worked for Elk Pipeline, Inc. He was a union member who was subject to a CBA. Mr. Puglia and one of his coworkers complained to their supervisor when the company cut their salary in half. They eventually asserted that Elk was violating New Jersey’s Prevailing Wage Act, a wage and hour law that entitles certain employees assigned to public works jobs to be paid a specific legally-established minimum hourly rate. Mr. Puglia also complained to the company’s president about this violation of law.
Eventually, Elk resumed paying Mr. Puglia and his coworkers their full salary. However, the company failed to pay Mr. Puglia all of the back pay he was owed. According to Mr. Puglia, when he objected about this the company’s president warned him to “either be quiet and keep [his] job or be laid off.”