The Civil Engineering department of the University of New Jersey is facing a lawsuit from a retired Rutgers employee who claims she was retaliated against for her whistleblowing over the state’s civil engineering workforce.
The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Newark by Rachel Hickey, who worked at the department from 2011 to 2016.
According to the suit, Hickey filed a whistleblower complaint against the civil engineering department for violating state law that prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers.
The complaint states that Hickey was retaliating against former state employee Rachel Licht for criticizing the civil engineer’s performance in the department’s investigation of the 2009 death of a student at the school.
“It was clear from her work that she was the type of person who was a very loyal employee who was very diligent in her work,” said attorney David Siegel, who represents Hickey.
“I think that’s an issue with civil engineers as well.”
Siegel said that the civil engineers department has since fired several former employees for making false claims.
The civil engineering school, which is funded by the state of New York, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.
Hickey told NJ Advance Media she filed the complaint because she believes her former employer, Rutgers, retaliated for her complaint.
“They were retaliating in a very severe manner,” she said.
“A lot of times, if you make a complaint, the first thing they do is they’re going to do the same thing.
So it was really frustrating to me.”
The civil engineer was one of several Rutgers employees who have filed lawsuits against the school in recent years alleging retaliation for their role in helping the state investigate the 2009 tragedy at the state-run New Jersey Community College.
The school’s civil engineer program was the subject of a scathing report by the New York Civil Liberties Union that said it had systematically targeted faculty members who spoke out about the school’s safety and governance.
The report found that the school had systematically violated the rights of dozens of faculty members and administrators by using state funding for “pre-existing policies and practices” that violated federal and state law.