An Essex County jury just ordered Millburn, New Jersey to pay $455,000 to settle whistleblower retaliation claims brought by a former police sergeant.
The former sergeant alleged that township officials had retaliated against him for his having reported that a superior officer failed a firearms test, according to NJ.com. The jurors accepted the whistleblowerâ€™s argument that Millburn officials retaliated against him by putting him through a criminal investigation as well as withholding his promotion and removing him from his position as a firearms range master.
The verdict was handed down last week in a lawsuit filed against the municipality in March 2012, according to NJ.com. The township is expected to also be ordered to pay another $175,000 in lawyersâ€™ fees on behalf of the whistleblower.
The whistleblower alleged that he was being retaliated against for having reported, in late 2010, that the Millburn Police Chief, who was then a captain, did not meet the minimum requirement needed to re-qualify with his duty weapon. According to the allegations, the police chief was unable to bend down on his knee to shoot appropriately, the lawsuit indicates, wrote NJ.com.
The police chief then filed a criminal allegation that the whistleblower inappropriately changed his test score to a failing grade. The Essex County Prosecutorâ€™s Office decided against prosecuting the case, according to the lawsuit, NJ.com reported. For his part the whistleblower claimed he should have been promoted, but was not, to the rank of lieutenant, according to the lawsuit. Meanwhile, once the current chief achieved the position of chief, he removed the whistleblower from his position as firearms range master.
Ultimately, the whistleblower felt forced to retire, according to his attorney. He retired in November, earning a yearly pension of $76,489, according to records. His attorney noted that once he was denied the promotion to lieutenant, the whistleblower felt humiliated and that his career had come to an end, according NJ.com.
Whistleblowers are an important 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 crucial 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.