CHARLESTON -- A Raleigh County man is seeking damages following being laid off by his employer after joining the Army National Guard.

Israel Mills was hired on February 20, 2006, as an electrician and thermal dryer operator by the defendants East Gulf Coal Preparation Company, East Gulf Coast Preparations Company, Pocahontas Coal Company, and United Coal Company, who were working together to operate a coal mine in Raleigh County.

At the time, he was also an inactive reservist for the United States Air Force.

On Oct. 31, 2006, Mills left work a few hours early with approval from the mine foreman and joined the Army National Guard. The next day, the mine superintendent told Mills he was not to take leave or miss any more days on account of the Guard.

However, on Nov. 14, 2006, Mills broke his arm and was off on unpaid medical leave until Jan. 21, 2007. On Jan. 21, he gave his Guard schedule to his supervisors.

According to the complaint, filed on April 17, 2008, his supervisors made derogatory statements about him needing time off to fulfill his duties to the Guard.

On April 17, 2007, Mills was laid off for "lack of work." On Aug. 19, 2007, the employers advertised for what Mills believes is his position as a prep plant electrician. Mills submitted an application, but wasn't hired. Instead, another person, who was not a member of the Guard, was hired.

Filed by Karen Kostol of Beckley in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, the suit states that Mills is seeking a trial by jury to recover back and front pay as well as lost benefits; punitive damages to deter similar conduct in the future; compensatory damages for his emotion distress, annoyance, inconvenience, humiliation, degradation, and loss of human dignity; liquidated damages in the amount of his lost wages; an injunction prohibiting the defendants from engaging in discriminatory conduct in the future; attorneys' fees; and interest.

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