Gordon & Rees New Jersey partner Elizabeth F. Lorell and associate Scott V. Heck recently obtained summary judgment resulting in the dismissal of a major multiplaintiff employment suit.
Three plaintiffs, former employees of a private, post-secondary institute in Mercer County, New Jersey, filed a lawsuit alleging the defendants changed attendance records, student grades, financial aid documents and tax returns. The plaintiffs sued under the Conscientious Employees Protection Act (CEPA) alleging they were constructively discharged and retaliated against for refusing to perform the document changes and for inquiring about the defendants’ actions.
The defendants denied the allegations and asserted that the plaintiffs’ claims were unsubstantiated and a byproduct of the plaintiffs’ inability to understand the grade changing and attendance policies established by the defendant as well as the rules governing financial aid. The actual acts of alleged whistleblowing also were brought into question by the defendants.
The defendants filed three summary judgment motions seeking to dismiss each plaintiff’s CEPA claims as well as a fourth motion seeking to dismiss the punitive damages claim and the plaintiffs’ common law claim of wrongful termination based on the CEPA’s waiver provision. Lorell and Heck established that the plaintiffs were unable to prove a prima facie claim of retaliation pursuant to CEPA and that the CEPA waiver provision required dismissal of the common law claims. Also, the plaintiffs lacked any support for their punitive damage claims.
On Feb. 14, the Superior Court of New Jersey in Camden County granted Gordon & Rees’s motions and dismissed the suit in its entirety.