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Barlyn employment case fans New Jersey political fire

A Bergen County employer can fire an employee for just about any reason, unless the termination is based on discrimination. You can be terminated for such vague reasons as "You aren't a good fit" or "The company is moving in a new direction," but you can't be fired for religious beliefs, age, race, sexual orientation, pregnancy or country of origin.

Whistleblower workers report employer wrongdoing, including unlawful or discriminatory practices. It's against the law for employers to retaliate against whistleblower employees by demoting or firing them.

Hunterdon County's former assistant prosecutor is claiming wrongful termination in a "whistleblower" lawsuit against high-powered New Jersey legal officials. Ben Barlyn believes his comments about indictments against three county law enforcement officials cost him his job.

Barlyn felt the unusual dismissal of indictments against the ex-Hunterdon County sheriff and two members of her staff was politically motivated. Nj.com reported the trio was indicted on more than 40 misconduct and other charges in 2010, but the indictments were dropped when the state Attorney General argued the veteran prosecutor's case was "flawed."

The former assistant prosecutor believes the materials provided to the grand jury could support his case. The state hasn't released the transcripts, despite a court order to do so. Barlyn contends the state wants to hide information that could connect the indictment dismissals with people at the highest levels of state government.

It doesn't take a political cast of characters to file an employment claim for discrimination or wrongful discharge. Your case must have a strong basis to override an employer's right to terminate. Plaintiffs forced to quit because of an employer's refusal to change discriminatory policies also have a possible claim.

Overlapping state and federal laws and exceptions to the rules make employment laws difficult to understand. The practical solution is to have an attorney review your case and advise which legal steps are prudent.

Source: Hunterdon County Democrat, "As appellate case looms, former Hunterdon assistant prosecutor makes rounds" Lillian Shupe, Jan. 17, 2014

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