Millburn, New Jersey, was just ordered by an Essex County jury to pay $455,000 to settle whistleblower retaliation claims that were brought by a former, now-retired, police sergeant.
The former sergeant’s allegations include that township officials retaliated against him for his having reported that a superior officer was unable to pass a firearms test, according to NJ.com. The jurors accepted the whistleblower’s claims that Millburn officials retaliated against him, including by putting him through a criminal investigation, squashing his promotion, and eliminating him from his position as a firearms range master.
The jury handed down the verdict last week in the lawsuit filed against the municipality in March 2012, wrote NJ.com. The township may also likely be ordered to pay another $175,000 in lawyers’ fees on the whistleblower’s behalf.
According to the whistleblower’s allegations, the retaliation against him stemmed from his having reported, in late 2010, that the Millburn Police Chief, who was then a captain, failed to meet the minimum requirement necessary to re-qualify with his duty weapon. The allegations include that the police chief was not able to bend down on his knee to properly shoot, the lawsuit indicates, wrote NJ.com.
The police chief filed a criminal allegation that the whistleblower changed his test score to a failing grade; the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office opted against prosecuting the case, according to the lawsuit, NJ.com reported. The whistleblower claimed he should have been promoted to the rank of lieutenant, but was not, also according to the lawsuit. Once the current chief achieved the rank of chief, he removed the whistleblower from his position as firearms range master.
The whistleblower indicated that he felt he had no choice but to retire, according to his attorney. He retired in November and was earning a yearly pension of $76,489, according to records. The whistleblower’s attorney noted that once he was denied the promotion to lieutenant, he felt humiliated and felt that his career had come to an end, according NJ.com.
Whistleblowers are a crucial part of putting an end to illegal employer activities that may cause harm to citizens and which may also defraud the government and other entities. What many may not realize is that, under certain circumstances, whistleblowers may maintain their anonymity during most of the whistleblower process.
Whistleblowers have also been important in assisting the federal government and other entities in recovering billions of dollars that were illegally obtained, and in putting an end to unethical behaviors. Whistleblower lawyers have been equally important in maintaining whistleblower anonymity in these cases.