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Transit system whistleblower loses job

Connecticut workers who report unlawful conduct by other employees or supervisors are protected by state and federal whistleblower laws. However, the costs that come from speaking out can still be great. A man who formerly held a position as New Jersey's chief compliance officer for the transit system was fired after reporting favoritism among employees who had connections with the governor's office.

The man took the job, which paid a $175,000 yearly salary, believing that it would be a good chance to fix problems within the agency. Instead, he was told by supervisors to not write things down and avoid making a fuss about the problems he found. When he wanted to install a fax machine line for $27 per month to allow employees to send him complaints anonymously, he was denied funding.

For the first couple months of his employment, he had to use his personal vehicle for work. The man was eventually given a company car that he also used for personal chores. This was the agency's stated reason for terminating his employment.

The man filed a whistleblower claim with the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration but has dropped it. He claimed that he was fired shortly after arguing that the agency's $30 million reserve for legal expenses related to the fatal September 2016 Hoboken crash was too little.

The National Transit Systems Security Act and Federal Rail Safety Act protect workers from retaliation if they report activities that could make transit systems unsafe. Protected activities include reporting work injuries, violations of federal safety rules and fraud by a government agency.

An attorney could help an employee who has experienced retaliation after reporting a safety hazard. An employee may be able to file a federal claim to restore worker benefits, clear their record and request payment for economic losses as well as punitive damages.

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