February 3, 2023


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U.S. Justice Department sues Kansas agency for firing deployed Countrywide Guard member in 2010

3 min read

TOPEKA — The U.S. Justice Division in a federal lawsuit claims the Kansas Section of Wellness and Surroundings fired an worker in 2010 for the reason that she was about to be deployed as a member of the Military Nationwide Guard.

Staff Sgt. Stacey Gonzales, of Backyard garden Town, is inquiring for misplaced wages and advantages as a consequence of KDHE’s “reckless disregard” for a federal law that guards the work rights of armed service servicemembers. The Justice Section filed the civil lawsuit on Monday in federal court in Kansas.

Gonzales labored as a KDHE-funded disease intervention professional in the Finney County Health Department. She traveled by means of western Kansas “performing illness intervention and avoidance activities” and retaining data on behalf of KDHE, the lawsuit stated. She was hired to the placement in 2001 and has served in the Nationwide Guard given that 1998.

Ashley Goss, who is now the deputy secretary at KDHE, supervised Gonzales at the Finney County agency. Gonzales also noted to KDHE administrator Jennifer VandeVelde.

The lawsuit describes hostile encounters involving Gonzales and VandeVelde about her navy services. Following returning from a 2007 deployment, the lawsuit said, VandeVelde questioned whether or not accidents Gonzales been given although deployed would impression her potential to do her job.

“VandeVelde requested this question in a hostile tone and Gonzales recognized her to be implying that Gonzales’ support accidents could possibly be a difficulty at get the job done,” the lawsuit claimed. “Gonzales responded ‘no’ and also informed VandeVelde that these types of a question about her military assistance was inappropriate.”

In March 2010, Gonzales asked to just take time off to show up at a 10-working day army training course at the Air Assault College. VandeVelde instructed Gonzales “you want to pick out in between army provider and your career,” the lawsuit reported.

Gonzales obtained orders on April 9, 2010, to report for lively duty on Oct. 20, 2010.

On April 23, 2010, Derek Coppedge, VandeVelde’s supervisor at KDHE, offered a letter detailing fears for the first time with Gonzales’ efficiency. Through a general public overall health convention in late April, VandeVelde was overheard telling Goss: “Well, I’ll just pull the grant” and “tell (Gonzales) the grant was pulled.”

Gonzales started a planned professional medical depart unrelated to her army provider on April 29, 2010. Coppedge sent an e mail to VandeVelde on June 7, 2010, stating KDHE was relocating the grant to a different county. The e mail didn’t point out alleged effectiveness troubles.

When Gonzales returned to get the job done on June 13, Goss explained to her KDHE had removed the funding for her position and she would be out of a occupation. On June 15, Gonzales acquired a functionality evaluation with rankings lessen than prior testimonials, dependent on feed-back from KDHE, and Goss slice her income by 3.55%. Gonzales was fired on June 30.

Gonzales was on lively obligation from Oct. 20, 2010, to Dec. 29, 2011. She sought enable from the Employer Aid of the Guard and Reserve but was advised the ESGR experienced a conflict of interest.

The lawsuit said Gonzales was created informed in 2018 that she could file a criticism with the Veterans’ Work and Education Service. VETS investigated and encouraged KDHE in May 2019 that it was in violation of the Uniformed Providers Work and Reemployment Legal rights Act. Gonzales requested her scenario be forwarded to the U.S. Legal professional General’s Business office for further more overview.

The USERRA prohibits discrimination in work versus an particular person on the basis of army support. The lawsuit promises KDHE violated the regulation by doing away with Gonzales’ position on the basis of her membership in the Army Nationwide Guard.

“VandeVelde’s statements about Gonzales’ navy services and the timing of the elimination of Gonzales’ … situation shortly after remaining notified of her deployment and ahead of her deployment started exhibit that Gonzales’ termination was not aspect of a overall performance motion, but was a termination on the basis of Gonzales’ services,” the lawsuit said.

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