David Maltese, a former Video Director at the New York Football Giants, Inc. (the “Giants”), filed a lawsuit (Maltese v. New York Football Giants Inc., et al., Dkt. No. L-3317-21) alleging that the Giants and their General Counsel William J. Heller violated the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) when they fired him after he complained that his supervisor physically attacked and assaulted one of his subordinates. Mr. Maltese also claims that Mr. Heller threatened that if he shared information about an internal probe into his complaints then “I will personally go into your office and strangle you until you can no longer breathe, OK? OK?” In a recent decision on a motion to dismiss brought by the Giants and Mr. Heller, New Jersey Superior Court (the “Court”) held that Mr. Maltese had sufficiently pled a claim under CEPA and that the case could proceed.
Mr. Maltese was able to maintain his whistleblower claim against the Giants and Mr. Heller because of the broad protections afforded to him by CEPA. CEPA prohibits an employer from taking a “retaliatory action” against an employee for engaging in protected whistleblower activity. To make out a CEPA claim, an employee must prove that (1) he or she reasonably believed that his or her employer’s conduct violated either a law, rule, regulation, or a clear mandate of public policy; (2) he or she performed a “whistle-blowing” activity; (3) an adverse action was taken against him or her; and (4) a causal connection exists between the whistle-blowing activity and the adverse employment action. An employee does not have to show that his or her employer actually violated the law or a clear mandate of public policy, but only that he or she had a reasonable belief that a violation occurred. Also, CEPA is construed liberally to effectuate the remedial purpose of the statute. Taking the liberal standards into account, the Court found that Mr. Maltese had properly alleged a CEPA claim.
If the Giants were located in New York, then Mr. Maltese would not have been able to bring a claim under CEPA. Instead, Mr. Maltese would have had to rely on New York law, which provides only limited protections to whistleblowers pursuant to New York Labor Law § 740(2)(a) (“NYLL 740”). Under NYLL 740, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee who “discloses, or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or to a public body an activity, policy or practice of the employer that is in violation of law, rule or regulation which violation creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety, or which constitutes health care fraud.” Unlike CEPA, NYLL 740 only protects whistleblowers who complain about a violation of law that creates “substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety.” Courts have held that the public danger component of NYLL 740 should be narrowly construed to apply only to the public at large. Therefore, allegations of assault and battery by supervisors do not meet the requirements of NYLL 740. As a result, while it was certainly wrong for the Giants and Mr. Heller to terminate Mr. Maltese for complaining about workplace violence, he would not have been able to maintain a whistleblower claim under New York law.
If you feel that you have been terminated for an unlawful reason, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to understand your rights and whether you can pursue any claims. To schedule a free consultation with our attorneys and to learn more about your legal rights, call our offices today at (877) 247-4292 or (212) 983-9330.
About Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP
Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP focuses on complex civil litigation, including securities, antitrust, wage and hour and consumer class actions as well as shareholder derivative and merger and transactional litigation. The firm is headquartered in New York, and maintains offices in California, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Since its founding in 1995, Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP has served as lead or co-lead counsel in numerous high-profile cases which ultimately provided significant recoveries to investors, direct purchasers, consumers and employees.
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About Taylor Crabill
Taylor Crabill's practice is focused on employment litigation. Mr. Crabill is an Associate in the firm's New York Office.
Associate at Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP
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