The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled, in a 6-1 decision, that an employee of the North Bergen School Board may be indicted for taking documents from the district, even though she claims she planned to use them in a discrimination lawsuit against the board. The decision meant the denial of a motion by Ivonne Saavedra, the school board clerk, to dismiss official misconduct and theft charges levied against her.
Saavedra filed a lawsuit in 2009 against the North Bergen School Board, saying she had been the victim of ethnic, gender and sexual discrimination. However, much of the evidence she used in her case were confidential records taken or copied from the district, which were protected by state and federal privacy laws. As a result, she was indicted in 2012 on these charges and faced five to 10 years in prison.
Saavedra ultimately dropped her own lawsuit, fearing attorneys in her criminal case could use her testimony against her. She then moved to dismiss the indictment, but had her motion denied by local and appellate judges en route to her hearing at the state Supreme Court.
The state Supreme Court’s decision could have wide-reaching effects on whistleblower cases in the United States. It means whistleblowers must be careful about the types of evidence they collect, and are still bound by state and federal laws regarding the privacy of certain documents.
For more information on how to properly collect evidence in a whistleblower case, contact experienced Dallas Attorney Steve Kardell at Whistleblower Law for Managers right away.