CEPA Reasonableness Requires Consideration of Plaintiff’s Background, New Jersey Appellate Division Holds

Mark Diana (Morristown),
Evan J. Shenkman (Morristown),
Published Date:
February 2013

To prevail on a claim under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), a plaintiff must prove that he or she “reasonably believed” the employer’s conduct was in violation of the law. In Gonzalez v. City of Camden et al., 2012 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2672 (N.J. App. Div., Dec. 10, 2012), the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of a CEPA claim brought by a supervising attorney who was employed by the City of Camden, holding his belief of improper conduct by his employer was unreasonable in light of his experience as an attorney. The Appellate Division held that as an attorney, the plaintiff should have known that a 24-year-old ethics opinion expressly rejected his position. The Gonzalez decision adds to the body of case law recognizing that a CEPA plaintiff may not prevail with a “good heart but empty head.”

Note: This article was published in the February 2013 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.