Mercer man says he was fired for serving in military

By Audrey Holsclaw | Jul 7, 2008

HUNTINGTON -- A Mercer County couple is seeking damages following the husband's termination by his employer after joining the West Virginia Army Reserve National Guard.

Nicholas Falls was hired in August 2006 originally as a merchandiser and later as a loader by the defendants, Bottling Group, LLC.

On Feb. 16, 2007, Falls committed to join the West Virginia Army Reserve National Guard for eight years, presented Bottling Group with a copy of his military contract and provided oral and written notice to them that he had received his order to report for initial active duty training on Sept. 13, 2007.

Falls reported for Advanced Individual and Military Occupational Specialty training and returned on March 3, 2008.

Filed by Janet Williamson of the Princeton firm of Williamson, Magann & Gurganus, the suit states that sometime in February 2008, Falls called his direct supervisor to let him know when he would be returning. Within 90 days after his completion of his active duty training, Falls reported to Bottling Group, only to be turned away and told that there was no work for him and that he was removed from their employment database. He was also told that he would have to re-apply if he wanted his job back.

So he did, and he requested that he resume employment as a loader in the warehouse, but was denied. Falls even went so far as to inform Bottling Group of his rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. At that point, Bottling Group informed him he could seek employment elsewhere.

Falls finally returned to work on April 2, 2007, but this time in his original position as a merchandiser, making substantially less money.

Falls is also alleging that he worked many unpaid overtime hours as both a merchandiser and a loader, and he is seeking compensation for that time as well. Falls' wife, Lori, is also seeking damages for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, the suit states that the Falls are seeking a trial by jury to award a declaration that Nicholas' denial of reemployment was unlawful and in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act; an order to force Bottling Group to comply with the Act and reinstate Falls to his seniority, status, and compensation that he would have enjoyed had he remained employed continuously with it; compensatory damages for loss of earnings and benefits; attorneys' fees; interest; punitive damages for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; and an injunction to prohibit it from engaging in future discriminatory acts.

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