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Viral New Jersey university video may play into termination suit

Bergen County employees have the right to quit a job whenever they’d like. At the same time, New Jersey employers have the right to conduct terminations at will for any reason other than employment discrimination.

Insubordination, a refusal to comply with an employer’s orders, not only diminishes future job prospects, but it can cost a worker jobless benefits. Worker misconduct and dismissal terms can be defined in an employee handbook, which may be construed by a court as an employer-employee contract.

The basketball player development director was fired from the Rutgers University staff in 2012, two years after the retired National Basketball Association was hired. Rutgers reasons for the termination of Eric Murdock were inadequate performance of job duties and insubordination.

Murdock contends he was let go for disputing the head coach’s behavior. The former NBA player created a video of the harsh treatment Rutgers basketball players endured, which leaked to a wide public audience through ESPN last April. The coach was fired immediately, followed shortly thereafter by the athletic director’s resignation.

The one-time player development director has taken Rutgers to court over his firing, claiming wrongful dismissal. Murdock’s lawyer recently asked a court to force the former coach and ex-athletic director to give depositions in the case, apparently after spending months trying to get the men to depose voluntarily.

The athletic director’s attorney claims his client is more than willing to give a deposition, provided he only has to do it once. The lawyer contends his client wants to wait until the plaintiff finishes collecting documents pertinent to the case from Rutgers, before agreeing to the deposition.

In cases that pit an employer’s claim for firing up against a worker’s counterclaim, it is up to the former employee to prove the employer lied. The evidence necessary for a successful case can rest with documented evidence or in the testimony of former colleagues or managers.

Source: MyCentralJersey.com, “Murdock files motion seeking to compel former Rutgers University officials to testify in wrongful termination lawsuit” Jerry Carino and Keith Sargeant, Jan. 24, 2014

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