Former Prosecutor Settles Employment Lawsuit with NJ Attorney General’s Office
A former Assistant Prosecutor in Hudson County recently received a $1.5 million settlement in his employment lawsuit against the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, after claiming that he was fired in retaliation for making a whistleblower claim.
The plaintiff in this case is former Assistant Hunterdon County Prosecutor Bennett Barlyn, who alleged that he was fired after citing that his superiors chose to drop criminal charges in service of political allies to Governor Chris Christie. The criminal case involved former Hunterdon County Sheriff Deborah Trout, Undersheriff Michael Russo, and Investigator John Falat Jr.
Trout was accused of hiring deputies without conducting background checks, and forcing her employees to sign oaths of loyalty. Russo and Falat Jr. were accused of creating fraudulent law enforcement badges, one of which they provided to a donor of Governor Christie’s campaign. After Attorney General Paula Dow took over the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, the indictments were dropped against all three defendants.
Barlyn became involved when he told one of his superiors that dismissing the indictments was unlawful and motivated by political affiliations, not valid cause. Barlyn was suspended the next day and fired three weeks later via written letter. He did not receive an explanation as to the justification for his termination.
After filing an employment lawsuit based on wrongful termination and workplace retaliation for his whistleblower claim, Barlyn’s case proceeded. In July 2015, a court ordered the Attorney General’s Office to provide Barlyn with grand jury documents related to the cases of Trout, Russo, and Falat. This settlement came as a result of an arbitration session. Per the terms of the settlement, Barlyn received $1.5 million but the Attorney General’s Office did not admit to any wrongdoing. The AG’s office claimed that the settlement was driven by their desire to avoid a costly period of litigation.
We will never know the true motivations for Barlyn’s firing; however, this case illustrates a number of significant issues in New Jersey employment law, specifically, wrongful termination, workplace retaliation, and whistleblower claims. New Jersey prohibits employers from firing their employees based on discrimination, or for raising questions about, or reporting safety violations or illegal activities in the workplace. Firing a person for any of these reasons constitutes wrongful termination.
When an employee voices concerns or reports illegal activities of their employer, they are often referred to as a “whistleblower.” Workplace retaliation can involve any negative action against an employee, including termination, salary reduction, reassignment, demotion, or another form of discipline, in response to a worker engaging in a legally protected activity. In this case, Barlyn voicing his belief about the dismissal of the criminal case is the whistle-blowing, which may have resulted in workplace retaliation in the form of wrongful termination.
Contact our Passaic County NJ Employment Lawyers to Discuss Your Case
At The Montanari Law Group, our New Jersey employment law attorneys represent individuals and groups of workers in a vast array of employment matters. If you suspect that you may have grounds for an employment lawsuit in New Jersey, contact our offices in Passaic County for a free consultation.
For additional information pertaining to this case, access the following article: Ex-Prosecutor Barlyn Gets $1.5M Settlement in Suit Against State