Derek Laaser,19, says he was fired by his bosses, when he told them that he had joined the Marine Corps and needs time-off for training and a weekend every month to fulfill his reserve duties. Rather than entertain his requests, his employers, Chevrolet of Milford, fired him.
Laaser joined the dealership last October as a part-time technician trainee under the General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program. He had joined them to earn an associate’s degree in automotive technology.
His attorney claim the dealership violated the rights that he was entitled to under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act, a federal law designed to ensure men and women “are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present or future military service.”
Ossai Miazad, co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Fair Labor Standards Legislation Subcommittee on the act, feels that Laaser’s attorney’s will not find it easy to prove discrimination as the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. Laaser maintains that he had told his superiors, in December itself, that he had been accepted. This Miazad feels, could go in his favor and be deemed as reasonable notice.
“The time in which he informed them appears to be short, but there’s no bright line rule as to how much time is needed,” said Miazad, who is also an attorney with the New York law firm Outten & Golden.
It is vital that Laaser prove that his firing was owing to his military service. Upon Laaser’s request his boss had given him a letter stating that he had “decided to leave our company to pursue a career in the military.” This letter could be vital evidence in drawing a connection between his service and his dismissal, she said.
“The letter he received from his employer will be a key piece of evidence,” said Miazad. “But one of the issues may be determining whether he left voluntarily or was forced out.”
Laaser, prior to being sacked was nearing completion of a painstaking mechanic’s program and had done well enough to receive a key GM certification. He claims that he sought the letter, because his boss had asked him to work on weekends. Laaser, further claims that he was prepared to work on the weekends, but one weekend he needed off to fulfill his Marine Reserve duty.
His boss, however, claimed that this was the first time he was hearing of it and told Laaser that he must “choose between a career at Chevrolet of Milford or leaving for military service,” according to the documents.
Laaser’s attorney, David Slossberg, said that there was enough reasons to believe that he would be able to prove that Laaser gave his employer ample notice. “He first gave notice back in December, and then was terminated three-and-a-half months later. The amount of time he gave for notice is in no way an issue,” he said.
Laaser’s employer, Milford Chevrolet Service Director Nick Saccomanno preferred not to comment on the matter nor were any of the officers willing to discuss the case or divulge the name of the attorney who was representing them.
“We’re seeing it more now, but most employers often don’t understand what their responsibility is,” said Miazad. “It’s not something many of them have had to deal with before.”
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