Cal U instructor cites National Guard deployments for loss of job
By Brian Bowling
Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013, 2:36 p.m.
When Zackary Dawson joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in December 2011, he said, he did not suspect that his patriotism would cost him his job as a health sciences instructor at California University of Pennsylvania.
“I've known those people for a long time, some for close to 10 years, so it was an absolute shock,” said Dawson, 28, of Canonsburg.
Dawson, a lieutenant, claims in a lawsuit filed on Thursday in Washington County Common Pleas Court that the university; Thomas West, health sciences chairman; and Mary Hart, director of the gerontology program, violated state and federal laws protecting the jobs of National Guard and Reserve members.
Christine Kindl, a spokeswoman for the university, declined to comment.
Tim O'Brien, his lawyer and retired Army National Guard major, said the university decided to fire Dawson in December 2012 after two deployments totaling six weeks.
He said it is surprising that employees of a state university would think they could flout the law.
The law “has to stop an act like this in its tracks because if they can get away with it, anyone can get away with it,” O'Brien said.
Nicholas Krawec, a lawyer and Southwestern Pennsylvania Area chairman of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, said the scenario described by the lawsuit is unusual compared with the disputes his volunteer group normally mediates.
“Most of the time it's the lengthy deployments, the repeated deployments,” he said.
Krawec said he was not familiar with Dawson's claim, but many of the disputes his group handles arise because lower-level supervisors not familiar with the law act without first checking with human resource experts.
“They're pretty few and far between,” he said.
In Southwestern Pennsylvania there were only two or three cases last year and one case this year, he noted.
Dawson, who holds two degrees from Cal U and a doctorate in physical therapy from Chatham University, had been a part-time instructor at Cal U since December 2009. Before the deployments, West and Hart were considering making him a full-time instructor, the lawsuit states.
Instead, when Dawson returned from a training deployment to Fort Sam Houston in Texas in December, Hart refused to reinstate him as an instructor and West subsequently canceled Dawson's contract to teach during the spring 2013 semester, according to the lawsuit.
Hart left a voice-mail message on Dawson's phone questioning whether he could keep his job because of his military obligations, the lawsuit states.
West, in the email telling Dawson that he was fired, cites student complaints, but an Oct. 13 evaluation commends Dawson's “excellent relationship with students.”
Dawson is seeking reinstatement and lost wages as well as other damages.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rise of Pirates’ Polanco is old-school success story for new-age franchise
- Starkey: Steelers offseason rates an ‘A’ so far
- Free agent RB Starks to visit Steelers on Tuesday
- Kovacevic: These Pirates have spring in step
- Space rock to blot out light from prominent star
- Washington Co. woman charged after shooting roommate in head
- Undermanned Penguins shut out by Flyers
- Pap test no longer gold standard
- Wind energy’s viability trumpeted in volatile market
- Penguins notebook: Kunitz a ‘possibility’ to play in rematch
- Penguins’ Kobasew hopes to refine game in AHL