An Army sergeant major fired from the U.S. Postal Service for taking “excessive military leave” for National Guard service has won a 14-year battle for his job back, back pay and benefits of up to $2 million.
Sgt. Maj. Richard Erickson, with the Army’s Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, N.C., told the Los Angeles Times he was with a special forces unit overseas back in 2000 when he got the letter telling him he’d been fired.
“I thought it was a joke,” Erickson said.
It wasn’t. And neither was the legal fight that followed — years of victories in court for Erickson, followed by appeals from the Postal Service that might have finally ended last week when the Merit Systems Protection Board in Washington turned down the Postal Service’s argument that Erickson had been away from the job too long and had not asked for it back in a timely manner.
According to the LA Times, Erickson, now 50, went to work for the Postal Service in 1988 after his military service. He joined the National Guard in 1990. His lawyer argued that the Postal Service couldn’t fire Erickson without violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights.
After more than a decade of continuous war since 9/11 that have called on Reserve and National Guard troops, thousands of veterans have gone to court over jobs lost to military service, the LA Times reported. That is likely to increase as troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan and more soldiers return to civilian life.
But Erickson’s case involves the U.S. Post Office – probably the last employer most Americans would expect to fire someone for military service.
“I answered the call of duty and served my country — and I got fired for it,” Erickson told the LA Times, which reported he has won a Purple Heart and other decorations.
Despite the board’s ruling that he can have his job back, Erickson told the LA Times he’s not interested in working for the Postal Service.
“If you fought someone for 14 years, would you go back?” he asked. “Are they going to fire me for something else and start another 14-year fight?”
So why fight at all?
“I fought this fight not just for me, but for a lot of other veterans who’ve been fired while serving their country,” he said.
A Postal Service spokeswoman told the LA Times the agency would not comment because it could still appeal the merit board’s decision.
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