This is an update to an earlier issued CEPA client alert. The New Jersey Senate has passed a bill last week (S-1886) that enhances the rights and remedies of employees who disclose or refuse to participate in fraudulent employer practices pursuant to the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), New Jersey’s “whistleblower” statute. Although the bill is awaiting action from the Assembly, a similar bill has been approved there in the previous legislative session. The bill removes CEPA from New Jersey’s Punitive Damages Act, which previously imposed a cap on punitive damages. In CEPA actions, the cap was calculated as the greater of $350,000 or five times compensatory damages. If the bill is passed in its present form, there is no statutory limit on punitive damages for CEPA actions pursuant to state law. Furthermore, the bill now allows judges or juries to consider (in addition to compensatory damages) “the amount of damages caused to shareholders, investors, clients, patients, customers, employees, former employees, retirees or pensioners of the employer, or to the public or any governmental entity, by activities, policies or practices of the employer which the employee disclosed, threatened to disclose, provided testimony regarding, objected to, or refused to participate in.” The bill directs judges to order the following relief “where appropriate and to the fullest extent possible”: (1) an injunction restraining employers against any violation of the act; (2) the reinstatement of the employee to the “same position held before the retaliatory action, or to an equivalent position”; (3) reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights; (4) compensation for “all” lost wages, benefits and other remuneration; and (5) reasonable costs and attorney’s fees. The bill allows judges or juries to assess greater civil fines against employers, up to $10,000 for the first violation and up to $20,000 for each subsequent violation, payable to the State Treasurer. According to the New Jersey’s Office of Administrative Courts, “whistleblower” suits had more than doubled since 2001. From June 30, 2003 through June 30, 2004, 275 CEPA claims have been filed which is a 102% increase from 2001. By contrast, Civil Part filings have increased only 24% over the same period. Stark & Stark attorneys can help your Company to develop notices that satisfy CEPA’s new requirements.