National Guard SGM Richard Erikson deployed with U.S. Special Forces and upon return received a letter from his employer, the U.S. Postal Service, that he was being fired for taking ‘excessive military leave.’ After a seven year legal battle, Erikson was awarded $2 million dollars from the Postal Service and his employment was reinstated.
DURHAM, N.C. (LA Times) —- Sgt. Maj. Richard Erickson was serving overseas with U.S. special forces when he received a letter from his civilian employer, the U.S. Postal Service.
In the 2000 notice, the agency informed him that he was being fired from his job as a postal clerk in Florida for taking too much time off to serve with the National Guard.
“I thought it was a joke,” Erickson said this week from Ft. Bragg, N.C., where he serves with the Army’s Special Operations Command.
But when he called the Postal Service, he was told that he had been terminated for taking “excessive military leave.”
Last week, after a seven-year legal battle, Erickson was awarded reinstatement and back pay. A federal board denied a Postal Service appeal and ordered the agency to restore his job and give him 14 years of back pay and other benefits that could total about $2 million.
“I answered the call of duty and served my country — and I got fired for it,” said Erickson, who has been awarded medals for valor and a Purple Heart.
Thousands of veterans have filed complaints or lawsuits against their employers after losing their civilian jobs while in the military. Legal experts say that more claims are likely as the war in Afghanistan winds down and more Reserve and National Guard soldiers return to full-time civilian life.
Erickson’s case is unusual because the Postal Service, an independent agency of the U.S. government, continued to fight even after several court rulings in his favor. Even now, it refuses to say whether it will comply — or continue to appeal.