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New Jersey suit alleges rampant corruption at government agency

Some workplaces develop bunker mentalities toward Bergen County employees who complain about company wrongdoing. The collective defensiveness sometimes leads to illegal retaliation against the outspoken worker. Punishments for doing the right thing in the wrong environment may include demotions, lack of promotions, harassment, pay restrictions and wrongful dismissal.

A supervisor, a 24-year veteran of the North Brunswick Township public works department, has filed an employment claim against his former boss, a business administrator, the township's mayor and the local government. The lawsuit claims the department refused to address the plaintiff's legitimate complaints about corrupt practices. The suit also alleges employee stealing, cronyism and retaliation.

In one instance, the long-time employee reported a subordinate endangered his life by wiping Armor All throughout the plaintiff's truck. The smooth, slippery substance was placed on the truck's pedals, which the claim says nearly caused a crash. The employee who pulled the stunt was warned but never suspended because of the man's alleged close connection with the township mayor.

The complaint said the New Jersey public works employees routinely slept at work, engaged in assaults, repaired personal vehicles while on the job, stole items, sold department property for personal gain and took pay for time they didn't work. When the supervisor reported the wrongdoing, bosses apparently responded by ignoring the complaints and demoting the worker.

The negligence lawsuit accuses the department of violating the plaintiff's civil rights and the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act. Unspecified compensation also is being sought for emotional damage. It's unclear whether the plaintiff filed grievances with any government agencies outside his department before the legal claim was filed.

Employees who see evidence of illegal activity in a workplace sometimes are not congratulated for reporting it. In fact, the opposite may be true depending on how accepted the internal wrongdoing is. Whistleblowers can take complaints to an employment attorney for advice how to proceed.

Source: MyCentralJersey.com, "North Brunswick employee claims corruption at DPW" Sergio Bichao, Apr. 12, 2014

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