back to article Wi-Fi Alliance allegedly axed army reservist for being called up. Now the Empire strikes back

The US Department of Justice on Thursday filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the Wi-Fi Alliance – a non-profit based in Austin, Texas, that promotes Wi-Fi technology and standards – for allegedly laying off an employee because of his ongoing military service obligations. The government's complaint, filed on …

  1. Kev99

    Actually, I believe it's been against the law to fire or demote any person called to active duty since just after the Civil War.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      1. He was not on active duty, he was in training

      2. It is a sword which cuts both ways. A lot of shrewd people (not just in the USA) use their army reserve affiliation as an employment protection method. Similar reserve programs exist in nearly every army in the world and the army does not make compromises when protecting them. It is one of the most perfectly legal and legit methods to make yourself redundancy-proof. The downside of this method is that you may end up dealing for 6 months with bearded lunatics in some er... shall we call it DumbF***stan location, but in peacetime it works a treat. The only way for the WiFi alliance to fire him was to fire all 7 of its project managers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No it isn't the way would be to evaluate all 7 project managers looking at previous reviews and past performance, excluding any time off for protected reasons such as reservist training.

        Document everything and keep records of meetings and come at the decision based solely on those reasons - perhaps even with outside oversight if required.

        Or you could ask all 7 to reapply for their jobs and do the same procedure based upon interviewing them for those roles and their continued suitability.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          AC wisely suggested, "Document everything..."

          They were trying, but they were having endless problems at the office with their Wi-Fi network.

      2. ST Silver badge
        FAIL

        Troll

        Voland spaketh:

        > He was not on active duty, he was in training

        1. No, he was on active duty. That's like saying boot camp or being on base isn't active duty.

        2. STFU. You have no clue what you're talking about. You haven't served in the US Military.

        1. SundogUK

          Re: Troll

          Why are you fuckwits down-voting this? The article clearly states:

          "O'Donnell around this time was away for his two-week tour of duty"

          Which is active duty, not training.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth

      Why did it take so long?

      Seems it took a long time to file. I don't for a minute believe it really takes years to investigate this case.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Why did it take so long?

        "Seems it took a long time to file. I don't for a minute believe it really takes years to investigate this case."

        I wonder how many times this happens to the rank and file and if the DoD contests all of them? Or is it just the higher ranks that get the extra protection.

        1. Steve the Cynic

          Re: Why did it take so long?

          I wonder how many times this happens to the rank and file and if the DoD contests all of them? Or is it just the higher ranks that get the extra protection.

          Until not long after I first met her, the late Mrs Cynic was a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, and consequently had similar service organisations.

          She had a curiously ambivalent attitude towards her service(1), but when an employer threatened to fire her if she didn't use her allotted vacation days to cover her two-week ANG service obligation, she went to the ANG's legal department. Their lawyer took it *very* seriously and told her that he would call the employer and remind him of his legal obligations and evidently he persuaded the employer of the error of his ways, since she never heard another word about it from either the employer or the ANG.

          (1) Best described like this: she never *liked* being there (neither in the ANG nor in the regular Air Force from which she departed under a program called "Palace Chase"), but people who criticised her or, worse, called her a bad person simply because she was in the Armed Forces, tended to get an epic earful.

  2. Sanctimonious Prick
    Paris Hilton

    Not Paying Attention

    Clearly someone in HR wasn’t paying attention at the Wiffy Alliance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not Paying Attention

      Right? How hard would it be to wait a couple months and then sack him?

  3. Amos1

    It can be manipulated by the employee, though :-)

    We had a fellow working in our department who got called up for duty in Afghanistan and was gone for a year and a half. He eventually came back to work and a year later he told us he was getting activated again. He was gone two days later but we heard he was stateside this time. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

    I turned in my notice of resignation four months later and called him to say goodbye. The conversation went like this:

    Me: "I wanted to let you know I'm leaving and won't see you when you get back. It was good working with you."

    Him: "Same here, but what makes you think I'm ever coming back?"

    Me, thinking he was telling me he was going back to Afghanistan: "Oh no, are you going back into combat?"

    Him: "No. You don't really think I got activated again, do you?"

    Me, confused: "Yes, that's what you said."

    Him, laughing: "Heck no! I volunteered for activation because I hate that place so much. I was pretty sure I would be staying stateside but wasn't certain, though."

    Me: "Wait, you hated your job so much that YOU VOLUNTEERED FOR ACTIVE DUTY DURING A WAR!!!!!!??????"

    Him: "Yup."

    I'm still in awe of him.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It can be manipulated by the employee, though :-)

      One of my Uncles did the same thing. He couldn't handle the sweatshops of New England. He fought in WWII Korean and Vietnam and died of Agent Orange poisoning.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It can be manipulated by the employee, though :-)

        He couldn't handle the sweatshops of New England. He fought in WWII Korean and Vietnam and died of Agent Orange poisoning.

        So on balance, that didn't work out so well?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It can be manipulated by the employee, though :-)

      You know your workplace is shit, you treat your employees like crap and you should really start looking at your management style when someone would rather risk being shot at or blown up by the Taliban than come to work.

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Proof

    I’d have thought the hard part would be proving that he was fired because he was a reservist. Unless it’s “Guily untill proved innicent”.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Proof

      In a civil suit the standard of proof will be "balance of probabilities" (or the US equivalent) rather than "beyond reasonable doubt." He was the only one of seven workers in his position to be laid off, so unless the company can produce records to show his job performance was worse than the other six, he has a reasonable chance I think.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Proof

        The US term is "preponderance of the evidence".

  5. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Purely as an outsider

    Not an American, so this is pretty impersonal, but I'd suggest that an organisation firing a reservist, in the light of that legal requirement and the reputational damage in a country that is pretty quick to defend attacks on members of it's military has got to be really dumb.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Purely as an outsider

      "a country that is pretty quick to defend attacks on members of it's military has got to be really dumb."

      Not so long ago, some members of the military were being spat on when returning from Vietnam by some sections of society. It's a refreshing change of attitude.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: Purely as an outsider

        The "Vietnam vets getting spat on" story has all the markings of an urban legend. I'm not convinced it ever happened outside of the movies. There's some evidence it originated in one of the Rambo movies.

        1. Orv Silver badge

          Re: Purely as an outsider

          You can downvote me if you want, but the fact is there are no contemporary newspaper accounts of it happening. The story seems to first appear after 1980. If this were really a widespread thing you'd think there would have been some news coverage.

          The supposed spitting story spread because it was useful propaganda. Anti-war veterans (about 75% of Vietnam vets were anti-war) were a major political problem if the government wanted to be able to go to war again. It was necessary to discredit peace activists. There's a reason the Bush administration brought up this story during the run-up to the Gulf War; justification for war had become a circular matter of "we have to fight because our troops are there," which made elevating the status of troops to religious martyrs necessary.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lots of equivalents

    So there are 7 guys and they happen (or whatever grounds) to choose the reservist - they get flak even if he WOULD have been the one to be selected anyway (I'm not saying this is true - just plausible). As another commentator pointed out, that reaction does tend to make reservists "redundancy-proof".

    But of course, it's not just reservists - suppose out of those 7, there was just one who was black, was female or even worse, disabled? The same logic would apply - even if we're charitable and assume that management were totally oblivious to race, gender or disability, and in 6 out of 7 cases, as expected, chose one of the non-minority staffers, they're still going to get the same flak on the 1 in 7 cases where they make the other choice, even if that choice is rational, defensible and fair to the others.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lots of equivalents

      It's commonplace in France, laying off a union or works council rep is almost impossible. I know several people who signed up as reps specifically to ensure that they'd be at the bottom of the list when the axe fell. Pissed off more than one manager who had to layoff someone they wanted to keep, instead.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Lots of equivalents

        It's commonplace in France, laying off a union or works council rep is almost impossible

        At the place where I work, there are several union reps. One works hard at their day day as well as being a reasonable union rep. The others are crap at their day jobs and make lots of noise about their union ties. We can't fire the useless ones due to managements fear of consequences.

        1. wyatt

          Re: Lots of equivalents

          Interesting, my dad use to work at a heavily unionised company (UK). They were suffering and about to go under so they sat down with the union and explained the options. The union supported them in keeping those in work who would keep the company solvent and made a large number of redundancies, majority of whom were union members (including reps).

  7. CFtheNonPartisan

    There is a certain amount of karma that America's failure to enact workers rights gives cause for confrontational situations such as this when one loses his position. There is often no due process or fairness required, just a kick out the door with 2 weeks pay.

    If you have rights in the US it is because you have a contract or a union has one on your behalf. It is rarely because you have legislated anything. Without that the employer can fly lose and fast if s/he wants.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Depends what the law says

    It might be "you cannot be fired for that reason" or "you cannot be fired for any reason". In my country, the rule was "you cannot be fired for any reason less than a month before or after army training", and I used that trick to give myself a bit more time looking for the next job.

  9. unwarranted triumphalism

    Prove that the two were connected

    Hint: you can't.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Prove that the two were connected

      Prove that they weren't.

      Depends which type of case this is.

      Civil cases are often "Balance of Probabilities", so the complainant only needs to convince the judge/jury that it's more likely than not.

      Some law is "Prove innocence". H&S is that way in many jurisdictions.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Prove that the two were connected

        In the US, civil cases are to be judged on the "preponderance of the evidence," weighing one side's story versus the other. It's only in criminal cases where "beyond a reasonable doubt " applies.

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