Quijano & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Improve Whistleblower Protections for Public Workers Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano and Valerie Vainieri Huttle sponsored to protect public workers who disclose wrongdoing or abuses by their employer was released Thursday by an Assembly committee.
The bill (A-3833) provides protection against employer retaliation for an employee who makes disclosures, provides testimony, or objects or refuses to participate in any activity, policy or practice of the employer – or another employer in a business relationship with the employer – that the employee reasonably believes is a substantial waste of public funds by a governmental entity or is a gross mismanagement or an abuse of authority by an employer that is a governmental entity.
“We’ve seen too many cases of corruption or mismanagement in New Jersey that could have gone unchecked if an employee felt safe coming forward,” said Quijano (D-Union). “It’s time to provide protection to employees who do the right thing and keep the public trust as their priority. Threats and intimidation have never been acceptable. This bill makes that clear.”
“The terrible abuse of government power that occurred at the George Washington Bridge out of the Port Authority that threatened public safety would never have happened had workers been free to come forward with the truth,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We know based on public testimony that Port Authority professionals feared they would lose their jobs if they spoke up. We can never let that happen again. We need to protect those who do the right thing.”
The bill defines both “gross mismanagement” and “abuse of authority” as a pattern of actions by an employer that is a governmental entity, made in a manner clearly deviating from the standard of care or competence that a reasonable person would observe in the same situation, which has a substantial adverse effect on the operations, clients, customers or employees of the entity, or on the efficient accomplishment of any function of the entity authorized by law, regulation, or a clear mandate of public policy concerning the public health, safety or welfare or protection of the environment.
The sponsors noted the difference is that “gross mismanagement” concerns actions which are negligent or incompetent” while “abuse of authority” concerns actions which are “illegal, malicious, fraudulent, arbitrary or capricious.”
The bill defines “substantial waste of public funds” as conduct or omissions made in a manner clearly deviating from the standard of care or competence that a reasonable person would observe in the same situation, of any employer, including one which is a governmental entity, which result or could reasonably be expected to result, at once or over a period of time, in the misuse, destruction, loss, or expenditure without valuable result, of a substantial amount of moneys or resources belonging to or deriving from a governmental entity.
The bill was released by the Assembly Labor Committee.