Reservist sues former boss for discrimination

September 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
An Army reservist is suing a company he says discriminated against him because of his military obligations. His lawyer says it is the first time an employee has filed a hostile work place lawsuit in California based on military status.

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Steve Lively joined the Army Reserves after Sept. 11. He and his wife Darcie believed it was the right thing to do.

"Because I saw these kids go to fight for me and my way of life and I just couldn't sit back in my air-conditioned office and not participate," Lively said.

In January 2008, just after he returned from Iraq, Lively was hired by Pick-n-Pull, an auto salvage company. By then, he was a captain in the reserves.

"I was very transparent; I let them know the whole thing and they seemed very happy to have me at the time," Lively said.

Lively says at first, he got good performance reviews as an asset manager in Pick-n-Pull's Rancho Cordova office.

But when he told supervisors he had to take four days a month off to participate in his reserve unit's drills, their attitude changed.

"I was told not to go to my drills, I was told if I could get out of them, especially on weekdays...," Lively said.

Lively believes that is when his superiors set him up to fail.

"The work kept coming and in order to get it done, I was frequently staying late," Lively said. "If it looked like I was going to succeed then another assignment would come through."

Lively says he was fired last December after he refused his supervisor's suggestion that he quit.

His lawyer says state law requires companies to give employees time off for drills and other forms of military service.

"When he doesn't get the proper training, it jeopardizes his safety, his unit's safety and ultimately, every American's safety," Larry Organ said.

A spokesperson for Schnitzer Steel, Pick-n-Pull's corporate parent, declined to comment, saying company policy forbids talking about pending litigation and personnel issues.

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