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Employee of the Month

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CN) - A former New Jersey Turnpike Authority officer says he was wrongfully fired after being caught "on duty, in uniform and driving a Turnpike car" and charged with "a number of drug related charges relating to the possession of cocaine." Martin Benedek complains that he was fired even though he completed a drug treatment program.

Benedek, who worked for the Authority since 1987 and claims to have "held an impeccable record," sued the Authority and three of its officials in Hudson County Court.

Benedek, who worked in the maintenance department, claims that because he was a first-time offender, he was offered a pre-trial intervention program during the criminal case, which would allow any charges against him to be dismissed.

Benedek claims he was sent a letter from his union stating that "if [he] received PTI as a result of his legal matter, he would be reinstated." After he completed the pre-trial program, Benedek says, the union recommended that he be reinstates.

But he says the Turnpike Authority arbitrated the matter and upheld his termination.

Benedek claims he was "not given the opportunity to enroll in a treatment program pursuant to the Highway Authority's Drug and Alcohol-Free Workplace policy," while other employees have been allowed to do it.

He seeks punitive damages for wrongful firing and breach of contract. He is represented by Milagros Camacho with Camacho, Gardner & Associates of North Bergen, N.J.

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