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Officials in Stone County have settled a lawsuit brought by a returning war veteran who was denied his position back at the sheriff’s department after he returned from deployment.
In a federal and state lawsuit National Guardsman Ryan Joy said he had been a mechanic working and shop manager for the Stone County Sheriff’s Office for five years prior to his May 2012 deployment.
Richard Hill was the sheriff in 2012, but when Doug Rader was elected, Joy says he also notified him of the future deployment. Court records say Rader was aware of the deployment and said he would see him when he returned.
In May of 2013, Joy notified the county that he would be honorably discharged and released from active duty the following month and asked to be reinstated to his previous position.
The lawsuit says that when he returned to work he was told that he would no longer be the manager of the sheriff’s repair shop because that position was now filled by the person hired as his temporary replacement and gave him a lesser position. He was told he would now be that Shannon Lassiter’s “helper.”
Prior to being deployed, Joy was told that no one would be hired to help him because there wasn’t any money in the budget to pay a helper.
Joy says that prior to being deployed he worked Monday thru Friday from 8 to 4 and after he returned his hours were changed to 12 hour shifts on Wednesday thru Saturday and his new schedule conflicted with his obligations to the National Guard.
Court records say Joy “immediately” contacted the Department of Labor, which on June 13 told the county that by them not reinstating Joy to his previous position they were in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. That law requires that a person returning from service is entitled to re-employment rights and benefits if advance written notice is given, the service does not exceed five years and the person submits an application for re-employment.
The DOL informed the county that if it created a “new” position and conducted interviews, it would be legal to put the new employee in that position, according to the lawsuit. The county then created a fleet maintenance supervisor position, interviewed Joy and his replacement, and awarded the job to the Lassiter, the petition says.
Joy maintains that he is more qualified for the position.
Joy says when Lassiter asked him for his thoughts on what happened, he responded “he didn’t think it was right.”
The petition says that Sheriff Doug Rader told Joy that Lassiter’s work was much better than his and that “everyone” liked Lassiter more.
After “belittling” Joy, “Sheriff Rader told him that “he had a bad attitude and he wouldn’t have it.” When Joy asked him what he meant, Rader said “he would fire him.”
Last year Stone County Attorney Patricia Keck declined to speak about the case. However, in a court filed response to the lawsuit Keck denied that Joy was told his replacement would be the full-time shop manager. The county’s response also states “Missouri is an at-will state and [Joy's] employment with [the county] was as an at-will employee.”