WASHINGTON (KSNT) — The U.S. Justice Department is suing the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to protect the rights of a U.S. Army National Guard member on Monday.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, they have filed a lawsuit in federal court in the District of Kansas against the KDHE to protect the employment rights of Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Stacy Gonzales. The Department of Justice is alleging that the KDHE violated the Uniformed Services Employment and re-employment Rights Act of 1994 when it took action to eliminate Gonzales’ position because she had an upcoming military deployment.
“This lawsuit reinforces the Justice Department’s strong commitment to protecting the rights of those who serve in our country’s armed forces,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We owe a solemn duty to members of the National Guard and Reserve to act when any employer seeks to deny them an opportunity to earn a living because they are called to duty.”
Gonzales was employed as a Disease Intervention Specialist with the Finney County Department of Health from 2001 to 2010, according to the complaint, which is a position funded by and under the direct control and supervision of the KDHE. Gonzales also performed active military service, including deployments overseas to Iraq and Kuwait, during this time alongside periodic training.
The complaint goes on to allege that after she returned from active service overseas in 2007, Gonzales began to experience hostility from KDHE regarding her military obligations. The complaint also alleges that upon notice that Gonzales had orders for an overseas deployment in 2010, the KDHE eliminated the funding for Gonzales’ DIS position. The lawsuit is seeking the recovery of Gonzales’ lost wages and other employment benefits as well as liquidated damages.
“Any attempt to deny someone employment based upon their dedicated military service to this country is wrong and a violation of that person’s civil rights,” said U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard for the District of Kansas. “It is the responsibility of the Justice Department to take action to support our service members, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”