NJ Supreme Court Grants Leave to Appeal to Employee After NJ Appellate Division Permits Indictment Arising From Her Theft of Employer Documents to Prove LAD and CEPA Claims
The New Jersey Supreme Court recently granted defendant Ivonne Saavedra’s leave to appeal the Appellate Division’s decision in State v. Saavedra, the subject of a previous post, affirming the trial court’s denial of her motion to dismiss an indictment charging her with official misconduct for stealing confidential documents from her employer to support her claims under New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) and the Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”). The majority in the Appellate Division was not persuaded by Saavedra’s argument that her actions were protected under Quinlan v. Curtiss-Wright Corp., also the subject of a previous post, where the Supreme Court held that an employee who was allegedly terminated for using stolen documents in litigation against her employer could assert a claim of retaliation. A dissenting opinion in the Appellate Division in Saavedra, authored by Judge Simonelli, concluded that the indictment should be dismissed with prejudice. For Judge Simonelli, it was fundamentally unfair to criminally prosecute an employee for taking employer documents while engaged in protected activity pursuant to CEPA or the LAD because the law does not give fair warning that the conduct is illegal. Though Saavedra concerns a public employee/employer, it has important implications for private employers as well. The Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department will continue to monitor developments in the case and provide any updates as they become available.