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July 2018

New Jersey Employment Team Obtains Summary Judgment on Four Alleged Acts of Whistleblowing

On July 27, 2018, Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani Florham Park Partner Elizabeth Lorell and Senior Counsel Scott Heck prevailed by way of summary judgment motion before Judge Turula in Hudson County, New Jersey on behalf of the firm's client, a community college and its former president. The plaintiff, a former employee of the community college, filed a multi-part CEPA complaint claiming his at-will employment with the community college was improperly terminated due to four alleged acts of whistleblowing. 

The plaintiff claimed that he uncovered fraud or illegal actions by the community college in four separate ways: a contract that was altered by an employee to the detriment of the community college; an audit that found more than 100 faculty members defrauded the community college by receiving compensation that they were not entitled to; illegal hiring by the community college of a preferred contractor; and a conflict of interest within one of the community college committees which allowed a third party to benefit by way of being selected for contracts they were not entitled. During almost two years of discovery, there was no evidence found to support any of the plaintiff’s claims which was highlighted in the defendants’ dispositive motion.  

Judge Turula found that defendants had properly terminated the plaintiff’s at-will employment due to his improper use of a college vehicle which he used for his own personal use in violation of the community college’s Code of Ethics and portions of its handbook.  Judge Turula ruled that the reason for the at-will employment termination was not based on the unsupported claims of whistleblowing, but rather there was a non-retaliatory and legitimate reason for the at-will employment termination.  

Gordon & Rees's client is a public community college with a remarkable history of providing higher education to its students since September 1974.  Gordon & Rees has represented this community college in several matters during the past several years.

To read the decision in full, please click here.

Scott V. Heck
Elizabeth F. Lorell