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Missouri guardsman sues Stone County officials

A Missouri National Guardsman recently filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Western Missouri wherein he claims that his job as shop manager for Stone County was not held for him when he returned from active duty with his Guard unit.

According to his petition, the employee had been with the Army National Guard for 16 years. He began working for Stone County in 2007 as a mechanic, and after being on the job two weeks, he was promoted to shop manager. He held that position until he was deployed with his unit in May of 2012 after submitting paperwork to his employer regarding his pending extended absence. When the man returned to work last June, he was informed that the temporary employee hired to replace him was now the permanent shop manager, and the guardsman would be his assistant.

The plaintiff's suit says he personally informed the Branson West police chief, Doug Rader, of his pending deployment and was told that the chief would see him upon his return. Rader has since been elected sheriff of Stone County. The guardsman sent his employers a letter notifying them of his honorable release from duty and requested reinstatement in his previous position.

In their response to the petition, the county contends that "Missouri is an at-will state and . . . employment with (the county) was as an at-will employee."

The U.S. Department of Labor sent a letter to Stone County officials informing them that "by not reinstating (the guardsman) into his previously held position, they were in violation of (the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act)."

The purpose of the above-mentioned Employee Rights Act is to eliminate or minimize "the disadvantage to civilian careers and employment which can result from such service" and to "minimize the disruption to the lives of persons performing service in the uniformed services."

If you have served your country honorably and return to a position of lesser pay or status than you held previously to deployment overseas, you may have a cause of action against your employer. To find out your rights in the matter, schedule a consultation with a Missouri attorney who is familiar with employment law.

Source: The Springfield News-Leader, "Guardsman sues Stone County over job" Stephen Herzog, Feb. 21, 2014

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