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Former Rutgers director plans to sue for wrongful termination

Many New Jersey readers and basketball fans have already read extensively about the controversy surrounding former basketball coach Mike Rice, who was fired recently after a viral video showed him yelling profanities and abusive epithets at players. A former athletic director from Rutgers said that he was wrongfully terminated when he originally complained about the misconduct and potential abuse.

He and his attorney spoke with reporters recently after the video made national headlines, saying that they plan to file a wrongful termination suit against the school immediately. It is illegal in New Jersey to fire an employee who reports misconduct or possible illegal activity by their employer or a coworker. Whistleblowers are also protected by federal laws which prohibit retaliation against employees who make these types of reports.

Whistleblowers are protected as a matter of public policy, since the government wants to encourage people to make reports when they see something bad happening at work. Without whistleblower protections, many employees are afraid of losing their jobs or being harassed or mistreated as a result of their complaints.

The school denies terminating him for illegal reasons, insisting that his contract was simply not renewed after he attended a basketball camp that they had specifically asked him not to attend. It is very common in wrongful termination cases to have employers find another excuse to fire an employee when the underlying reason is retaliation. Even with another explanation at the ready, it is still possible that the school fired the athletic director as a result of his complaints about Rice’s misconduct.

Source: ABC News, “Rutgers Coach Mike Rice Fired for Video of His Kicking, Berating Players,” Kevin Dolak, April 3, 2013.

Information about whistleblower protections for New Jersey employees can be found on our wrongful termination page.

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