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Zarwin, Baum Attorneys Secure Summary Judgment Dismissing Claims of Unlawful Termination and Civil Rights Violations Against Client.

August 31, 2010

Zarwin, Baum attorneys Patrick J. Wolfe, Jr. and Sharlenn E. Pratt recently secured dismissal of all claims brought against one of Zarwin Baum’s municipal clients in New Jersey.

The matter was pending in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Atlantic County. Plaintiff alleged that in violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, he had been terminated from his position in municipal government for reporting the illegal conduct of his co-workers. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that in his position as a department director he had "blown the whistle" on numerous infractions of his subordinates and on the illegal activities of the municipality. Plaintiff alleged that not only was he unlawfully fired in retaliation for his protected activity, but that the municipality had denied him due process.

Mr. Wolfe and Ms. Pratt received the file shortly before the close of discovery. After thoroughly reviewing boxes of deposition testimony and documents, Mr. Wolfe and Ms. Pratt filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that Plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed as a matter of law. In briefing, Mr. Wolfe and Ms. Pratt asserted Plaintiff was not entitled to the protection under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act because it was Plaintiff’s job as the department director to monitor his subordinates, address areas of concern within his power to fix and report all infractions to his supervisors within the municipality. The law clearly established that it was not the intention of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act to afford "whistle-blower" protection to employees whose "reporting and/or objecting" is part of their everyday job functions. Moreover, Mr. Wolfe and Ms. Pratt successfully argued that Plaintiff could not establish the required causal connection between his termination and his purported protected conduct.

Similarly, Mr. Wolfe and Ms. Pratt defeated Plaintiff’s contention that his due process rights were violated by directing the Court to the statutory interpretation of New Jersey’s recently adopted Civil Rights Act. Having thoroughly researched the law, Mr. Wolfe and Ms. Pratt argued that Plaintiff had no right of recovery pursuant to the New Jersey Civil Right Act because the procedures allegedly denied were not afforded protection under the Act.

The Court was persuaded by the arguments of Mr. Wolfe and Ms. Pratt and dismissed all claims against their client with prejudice.

Patrick J. Wolfe, Jr. and Sharlenn E. Pratt are members of the Firm’s Professional Liability and Employment Law Practice Groups.

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