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Guardsman sues Missouri county over lost job

Feb. 21, 2014 - 10:58AM   |  
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GALENA, MO. — A National Guardsman from Republic is suing Stone County, claiming his county job was not held for him when he returned from duty.

Ryan Joy filed the suit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of Western Missouri.

The petition says Joy has been in the Army National Guard for 16 years and started working as a mechanic for Stone County in 2007. It says two weeks after he was hired, he was promoted to shop manager.

The suit says Joy held that position until May 2012, when he was deployed with the Army for one year. Prior to his deployment, Joy submitted paperwork informing the county of his upcoming deployment.

The suit says Joy also informed Doug Rader, who was the Branson West police chief at the time and running for the sheriff’s office.

“Rader told him he already knew of (Joy’s) deployment and he would just see (him) when he returned,” the suit says.

Rader was elected as Stone County sheriff later in the year.

When Joy returned in 2013, he sent the county a letter notifying officials he would be honorably released from active duty June 9, and was requesting to be reinstated in his former job, the suit says.

The petition claims that when Joy returned to work June 10, he was told his temporary replacement would now be the permanent shop manager and Joy would now be “his helper.”

Reached for comment, the county’s attorney, Patricia Keck, declined to speak about the case but noted the county’s response had been filed in court. In that response, the county denied many of Joy’s claims, including that he was informed his replacement would be the full-time shop manager.

The suit says Joy immediately contacted the Department of Labor — it does not say if it was federal or state — to report the county’s actions.

On June 13, the department sent a letter to the county informing officials that “by not reinstating (Joy) into his previously held position, they were in violation of (the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act).”

The act says a person returning from service should be entitled to re-employment rights and benefits if the person gives advance written notice, service does not exceed five years and the person submits an application for re-employment.

According to statutes, the purpose of the law 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.”

The document says the department told the county it needed to reinstate Joy to “the position he would have held but for his absence performing military service.”

The suit says the department also told the county that if it created a new position and conducted interviews, it would be legal to put the new employee in that position. The county then created a position called “Fleet Maintenance Supervisor,” interviewed both Joy and his replacement, and gave the job to the replacement, the petition says.

Joy argues in the suit that his credentials “far outweigh” his replacement’s. The petition says Joy has 10 years of mechanical training, including some from the military, but does not specify his replacement’s credentials.

The suit says Joy continued to work at the shop for a few months but left because the work environment was hostile.

The petition says Joy told his supervisor he didn’t think it was right he had been demoted and that the supervisor then told Rader.

The suit says Rader told Joy “how much better” his replacement was and that “everyone liked (the replacement) more than (Joy).”

The suit says Rader threatened to fire Joy for having a bad attitude.

“Sheriff Rader also told (Joy) on one occasion that everything changed when (Joy) started a federal case against him,” the suit says.

According to the petition, Joy was “constructively discharged” from the job on Sept. 9.

The county denies Rader made the statement about the federal case and that Joy was “constructively discharged” on Sept. 9.

The county’s response also states “Missouri is an at-will state and (Joy’s) employment with (the county) was as an at-will employee.”

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