The man who exposed the bullying, intimidation, and verbal and physical assaults by former Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice says that he brought the problem to the attention of school administrators last year and was fired in retaliation for his whistleblowing. The former director of player development for the program has filed a whistleblower claim under New Jersey's Conscientious Employee Protection Act.
According to reports, the man was concerned that Rice's behavior was in violation, not only of Rutgers policy, but also of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, which New Jersey passed in 2010 after the suicide of a student. He wrote to the University last July, then provided officials with video of Rice's unlawful conduct in November.
Shortly after his July letter, he says, his contract was not renewed. Essentially, he was fired and was told it was because he missed 35 minutes of a youth basketball camp Rice ran. The camp had nothing to do with his official position.
After he provided the video to Rutgers officials, the school hired a lawyer to investigate the allegations, but the lawyer concluded that the video was taken out of context and that Rice generally did not behave inappropriately. When the video was released to the public, however, people were so outraged that Rice was forced to resign in disgrace.
"If [he] never stepped forward and lost his job would this still be going on?" his lawyer asked at a press conference on Friday after the lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit, which names the University and its current and former presidents as defendants, claims the school violated the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, breach of contract, hostile work environment, and wrongful termination in retaliation for his efforts to protect the players he was hired to manage. It does not specify damages, but there are unconfirmed reports he has offered to settle the case for $950,000.
He and his lawyer deny that the lawsuit is about money. "Efforts to get Rutgers to address their problems were ignored for months," he told reporters. "Instead I was removed from my position. That is wrong and why I filed a lawsuit."
University officials said they will not comment about pending litigation.
Source: The Washington Post, "Rutgers ex-employee who blew whistle on abusive coach sues university over his departure," Associated Press, April 5, 2013