Previously in this space, we have discussed the fact that it is illegal under federal law to discriminate against an employee on the basis of his or her military service, even if that service takes the individual away from his or her job for periods of time. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protects the right of members of the armed forces to be free from discrimination and allows them to return to their jobs after periods of deployment and training. Oklahoma residents may be aware that recently, a former staff member from the U.S. House of Representatives has filed suit against the chairman of the so-called 'Benghazi Committee,' as well as others involved in the committee's activities, claiming that he had been wrongfully terminated.
The former staff member is also a Major in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, working as an intelligence officer. He had been involved in the committee's investigation of various parts of the federal government's response to the attacks in Benghazi, Libya that had killed a few American citizens, including a U.S. Ambassador. According to the former staffer, though there had been no problem with his work previously, after he was called up for two weeks of Air Force duty, his supervisors with the committee began to change their attitudes toward him. There are reports of disagreements between the former staffer and some colleagues about the focus of the committee on the U.S. State Department. He also asserts that after several incidents that prompted him to retain an attorney to protect his rights, he was fired from his position in retaliation.
As might be expected, the chairman of the committee, and a spokesman for it, deny all the allegations in the recently filed complaint. The chairman has gone so far as to say the former staffer was terminated due to his mishandling of classified information. The staffer has claimed that these statements are false, defamatory and calculated to prejudice his future employment prospects.
Oklahomans need to remember that employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of certain characteristics. Membership in the military and required military service is one of them. Anyone with questions about how to protect his or her rights in the workplace may wish to consider contacting an experienced Oklahoma employment attorney.
Source: news9.com,"Ex-Benghazi panel staffer files new claim against Gowdy," Mathew Daly, Nov. 23, 2015