Reservist sues school, says he was fired because of his military service
An Army reservist and Afghanistan veteran alleges in a lawsuit that he lost his job as a North Carolina school administrator because of his military service.
Sgt. 1st Class Dwayne Coffer claims his contract at Warren County High School was not renewed after he was ordered to instruct at an Army leadership course for one month in March 2008, according to court documents filed Friday.
Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, it is illegal to terminate employment if a person misses work because of a military deployment.
Despite Coffer receiving positive performance reviews from the school’s outgoing principal, he was told by Superintendent Ray Spain in April 2008 that he would not recommend that his contract be renewed, and at first would not tell him why, according to the complaint.
"Spain said that he would provide Coffer with information regarding the reason for his recommendation if Coffer voluntarily resigned,” the complaint states.
Coffer did not resign. Three days later, the school board followed Spain’s recommendation to end Coffer’s employment.
Spain then told Coffer that he made the move because “Coffer had a choice as to whether to take military leave during the school year,” according to the complaint.
When Coffer left for his military assignment in March 2008, he had been appointed acting principal by the principal at the time, who was on medical leave.
When Coffer returned, the administrator who assumed control in his absence refused to turn the job back over to him. That administrator was later named principal following Coffer’s loss of employment, according to court documents.
Coffer is asking for a new contract with the Warren County school system, lost wages since 2008 and other remedies.
Coffer first filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which referred the complaint to the Justice Department. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina then filed suit on Coffer’s behalf, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.