The Veterans' Enemy at Home

MJMANDALAY

Registered User
Jan 26, 2005
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#1
The Veterans' Enemy at Home


Of all the troubles that U.S. troops may face when they come home, getting their old jobs back should not be one. Uncle Sam supposedly took care of that with a law saying civilians turned soldiers cannot be fired for serving their country--or denied the right to sue in federal court.

Which is why returning veterans should hear the story of Michael Garrett.

Thirteen years ago, Captain Garrett of the U.S. Marine Corps traded his camouflage utility uniform for the business-casual dress of a Circuit City service manager. The electronics company was booming, and Garrett could still get his dose of a soldier's life as a member of the Marine Reserve.

For almost a decade, Garrett ascended the company's ranks. But in October 2002, with war in Iraq near certain, his bosses asked whether he would go on active duty, according to Garrett. He said it was possible, and within weeks, the sniping began: his department took too long with repairs, one boss said, and its work was sometimes shoddy. Then, on March 17--two days before the U.S. invaded Iraq--Garrett got fired.

The company declines to comment, saying only that it "supports the mission and values of the United States Armed Forces." But Garrett says the timing was no coincidence: he lost his job because of his military status. If true, that would violate a 1994 federal law. So Garrett sued Circuit City, only to see it spring yet another surprise.

Garrett, the company said, had to take his case to private arbitration, a quasi-legal process offering sharply limited rights. Garrett acknowledged that his employment contract required arbitration, but he argued that the 1994 act overrode the contract. A federal judge in Dallas agreed in 2004, just before Garrett was activated for a 10-month tour in the Horn of Africa. Last year, though, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed that decision, becoming the first court to rule that a contract crafted to help employers trumps the law designed to protect the rights of veterans. "That just blows me away," says Garrett, whose case heads for arbitration.

No one knows how many veterans are in a similar bind, but the numbers are substantial--and will grow as more troops return home. Complaints under the 1994 act have increased steadily, to more than 1,500 in 2006 from about 800 in 2001. Some have become lawsuits, and employers may have tried to steer many toward arbitration, since about one-fifth of U.S. companies require the procedure for workplace disputes. In defense of employers, it's not easy reserving jobs for workers called to active duty. But Congress judged that the cost was worth the peace of mind of citizen soldiers, willing to sacrifice their time and perhaps lives to the military. Like predecessor statutes dating from 1940, the 1994 act's broad protections rest on the promise of a federal jury trial--with rights to evidence, a fair hearing and an appeal--if an employer fails to comply.

Companies like Circuit City say binding arbitration is faster and cheaper than going to court, though studies have cast doubt on both claims. What really bugs employees are the rights they lose in arbitration--and the apparent bias of arbitrators. There are strict limits on gathering evidence for arbitration hearings, and it is virtually impossible to appeal them. Arbitrators don't necessarily have to follow the law, and studies suggest they favor companies that regularly hire them. Still, the courts generally uphold arbitration clauses unless a law makes absolutely clear that the employee can go to court, arbitration be damned. That pretty much describes the 1994 act, as three federal courts have ruled.

But the magic of law is that even federal judges can give it surprising twists, as the court of appeals judges did in Garrett's case. Sure, they explained, the act says the rights it grants can't be limited. But the judges said that referred to "substantive rights" like the guarantee of a job. Whether such rights are enforced in court or arbitration, the judges thought, is just a matter of process. It's hard to believe, though, that Congress thought a second-class justice system like arbitration was just as good as the federal courts for veterans. As Bob Goodman, Garrett's lawyer, says, "Taking away the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial is no way to treat the troops." Or to welcome them home.
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1633071,00.html
 

Budyzir

There's nothing quite like a shorn scrotum.
Nov 12, 2004
7,307
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Queens, NY
#2
Circuit City just made the top of my Shit List. Never really shopped there before but now, I definitely never will.
 

bethm1b

person of interest
Dec 1, 2006
2,606
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Just past the line.
#4
These people suck. How the fuck can you even consider doing something like this?
 

weakside

He was stupid. I was lucky. I will visit him soon.
Dec 9, 2004
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California
#5
Hmmmm...

So a multi-million dollar company decided to go against the law, risk bad publicity and a huge lawsuit just to fire this one guy?

I'm not saying it didn't happen, but it is also possible (more so even) that Captain Garrett got fired simply because he did a bad job.

(Also keep in mind the media loves this type of story...little guy getting squashed by a huge company.)
 

MJMANDALAY

Registered User
Jan 26, 2005
13,145
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#6
Hmmmm...

So a multi-million dollar company decided to go against the law, risk bad publicity and a huge lawsuit just to fire this one guy?

I'm not saying it didn't happen, but it is also possible (more so even) that Captain Garrett got fired simply because he did a bad job.

(Also keep in mind the media loves this type of story...little guy getting squashed by a huge company.)
I have read plenty of stories like this. In reputable magazines and papers not just on some blog post. A news search would probably pull up a bunch. I posted this one because it was in a recent issue of Time magazine I was just reading.
 

weakside

He was stupid. I was lucky. I will visit him soon.
Dec 9, 2004
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#7
I have read plenty of stories like this. In reputable magazines and papers not just on some blog post. A news search would probably pull up a bunch. I posted this one because it was in a recent issue of Time magazine I was just reading.
Fair enough.

I just found it so hard to believe that an entire corporation would risk so much to gain so little. This guy's salary is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions a lawsuit and/or bad publicity would cause. That goes for any case like this.

But if it is true I hope he takes them for all they are worth.
 

Legend of Snuka

Registered User
Mar 29, 2005
365
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#8
Fair enough.

I just found it so hard to believe that an entire corporation would risk so much to gain so little. This guy's salary is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions a lawsuit and/or bad publicity would cause. That goes for any case like this.

But if it is true I hope he takes them for all they are worth.
The problem with these companies is that there are so many suits on the corporate chain...This scumbag reports to this scumbag who reports to head scumbag...By the time matters like these get up the corporate chain it becomes a matter of bottom line and numbers. So head scumbag cuts this guy so his sector increases profits thus his bonus gets bigger....

Of course, I'm sure Circuit City's PR arm will make some sort of statement "We support the troops blah blah" and make some token donation...

I hope this guy takes Circuit City for everything their worth.
 

HummerTuesdays

Another girrrrl!!!
Apr 24, 2005
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#9
It's probably up to the store manager to let staff go. Now the suits at headquarters are just trying to cover their asses.
 

abudabit

New Wackbag
Oct 10, 2004
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#10
Think about this. There are tons of CC employees getting called up. Of course odds are that one of them will be fired shortly before deployment. If you have 100's of employees getting called up, the odds are very very high that at least one of them will coincidently be fired around that time.

This guy got legitimately fired, he's just looking for payout.


If you want to look at this in a more honest manner, compare the job loss rates before deployment to the job typical job loss rates of these reservists. With tens of thousands of reservists heading out to Iraq of course you will anecdotedly find people who lost thier jobs before deployment.
 

weakside

He was stupid. I was lucky. I will visit him soon.
Dec 9, 2004
3,871
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California
#11
Here is the other thing that is going to be hard for this guy in proving his case, the firing happened before the U.S. even invaded Iraq.

Again, I am not saying it didn’t happen but the likelihood is very slim.