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SMITH v. TRAVELERS MORTG. SERVS.

November 23, 1988

NEVA SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
TRAVELERS MORTGAGE SERVICES, et.al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RODRIGUEZ

 For the reasons stated herein, plaintiff is not entitled to an injunction under CEPA. The court comes to this conclusion based on two grounds: First, a study of the CEPA legislative history as well as relevant case law demonstrates that the act protects whistleblowing activities; thus, this court holds that plaintiff's individual claim does not fall within the CEPA protections. Second, even if the CEPA statute envisions protection for an individual discrimination claim, plaintiff has failed to demonstrate the requisite irreparable harm for an injunction to issue.

 I.

 Plaintiff Neva Smith began her employment with defendant Travelers Mortgage Services, Inc. ("TMS") in April 1984 as Director of Personnel. In June 1985, she was promoted to the position of Assistant Vice President for Human Resources. On June 18, 1987, plaintiff filed a charge with the EEOC alleging discrimination by TMS when TMS failed to award her the position of Vice President of Human Resources. On March 10, 1988 while on maternity leave, plaintiff received notice that she would be terminated from her employment at the end of her leave.

 On July 27, 1988, plaintiff instituted this action alleging she was terminated from her position in retaliation for filing the EEOC charge. In addition to TMS, plaintiff names as defendants TMS officers James T. Moran and Michael D'Ambrose. Plaintiff also alleged that she was fired for refusing to participate in the termination of a former TMS employee, who allegedly refused to perjure herself at the request of TMS in a proceeding involving another employee. In her complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendants engaged in sexual harassment and a pattern of unlawful employment discrimination against plaintiff on the basis of her sex. Specifically, plaintiff brings the following claims: Count I - sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Count II - retaliatory discharge under Title VII for terminating her employment for filing a charge with the EEOC; Count III - unlawful retaliatory action under CEPA; Count IV - equal pay violation under Title VII; Count V - conspiracy to interfere with civil rights; Count VI - wrongful discharge; Count VII - intentional infliction of emotional distress; and Count VIII - negligent infliction of emotional distress.

 In September 1988, plaintiff moved before this court for a preliminary injunction under Count III against TMS to enjoin her discharge and for an order to reinstate plaintiff to the position of Assistant Vice President of Human Resources with full fringe benefits and seniority rights. Plaintiff asserts that she is entitled to this relief pursuant to CEPA and that she meets the requisite standards for injunctive relief. Defendants contend that plaintiff is not entitled to an injunction because the alleged retaliation based upon filing an EEOC charge is not protected under CEPA. In addition, defendants contend that even if relief for such charge was envisioned by CEPA, plaintiff has failed to meet the standards for a preliminary injunction. This court heard oral argument on September 22, 1988 and then requested supplemental briefs on the issue of whether filing an EEOC charge is within the protection of CEPA.

 II.

 The New Jersey Conscientious Protection Act, effective in September 1986, prohibits employer retaliatory discharge. Specifically, the statute forbids an employer from taking retaliatory action against an employee because the employee does any of the following:

 
a. Discloses, or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or to a public body an activity, policy or practice of the employer that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of a law, or a rule or regulation promulgated pursuant to law;
 
b. Provides information to, or testifies before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing or inquiry into any violation of law, or a rule or regulation promulgated pursuant to law by the employer; or
 
c. Objects to, or refuses to participate in any activity, policy or practice which the employee reasonably believes:
 
(1) is in violation of a law, or a rule or regulation promulgated ...

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