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The Knucklehead of the Day award

Today's winner is Wal-Mart. They get the award for the following.

The Department of Justice has sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on behalf of a former airman, claiming the company didn't give him his job back after he was discharged from the military, the department announced Monday.

The lawsuit on behalf of Sean Thornton, a former airman with the United States Air Force, alleges Wal-Mart violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 by failing to reinstate him as a cashier at an Orange City store after he was discharged.

The act requires that workers who leave their jobs to serve in the military be given their job back when they return, the statement said.

"No person should be disadvantaged in the workplace for serving our country in the military," Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Grace Chung Becker said in the justice department statement.

The Justice Department said it filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Orlando. A Wal-Mart spokesman declined comment on the allegations Monday because he couldn't confirm Wal-Mart had received a copy of the complaint.

The law is pretty clear cut. Our brave fighting men and women who serve in the reserves deserve their jobs back when they come home. Mr. Thornton fought so this retail chain could remain in business, then he gets fired as a thank you. That lack of gratitude is part of why I name Wal-Mart today's Knucklehead of the Day.


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Comments (20)

Hey Bill, maybe <a href="ht... (Below threshold)

Hey Bill, maybe this guy can get the nod tomorrow.

While I don't buy into the ... (Below threshold)

While I don't buy into the whole "Wal-Mart is the root of all evil" they are clearly in the wrong here.

Matthew,Thanks, Mc... (Below threshold)


Thanks, McHenry will get my award tomorrow.



I don't know, maybe the guy... (Below threshold)

I don't know, maybe the guy that would sue to get a Walmart cashier job is the real knucklehead? I understand the legal principlse involved, and they should be honored, but after a tour in the AF his aspirations should be a lot higher.

So, Wal-Mart's simply tryin... (Below threshold)

So, Wal-Mart's simply trying to help him take a step up the ladder, by not giving him his job back, Matt? That kind of reasoning makes Ari Fleischer look like Socrates.

Hey, cool, thanks Bill. :)<... (Below threshold)

Hey, cool, thanks Bill. :)

There is one little tidbit ... (Below threshold)

There is one little tidbit to keep in mind with all this, as it applies to USERRA.

When he returns from any kind of duty, there is a timeframe in which he has to send the employer notice that he is coming back. This timeframe varies on the basis of length of tour.

What I haven't been able to figure out yet, because they aren't mentioning it in the article, is how long he was on duty when he was discharged.

Because, while Wal-Mart looks like an ass in doing this, I wonder if he didn't follow USERRA guidelines in reporting his completion in time. If that is the case, it's his responsibility and his fault for not doing what needed done.

We'll just have to wait and see for more info.

matthew, nice job misrepres... (Below threshold)

matthew, nice job misrepresenting Matt's comment.

As for Walmart, I'm not sympathetic to them in this instance. However, I've done some advising on this topic and the law is far more complex than you realize, Bill.

SPQR, Silent,Note ... (Below threshold)

SPQR, Silent,

Note the Dept of Justice is filing the lawsuit. DOJ would seem to know what the law is, wouldn't you think?


I give Bill Jempty the K... (Below threshold)

I give Bill Jempty the Knucklehead of the Decade Award for this one! I can't imagine that what transpired with one individual at one Wal-Mart store represents the company policy of the entire organization. Yet his post doesn't even try to make that distinction.

If Walmart has violated the... (Below threshold)

If Walmart has violated the law, they deserve to be punished for it. I do know that the law has a lot of requirements, loopholes, and exceptions that an employer can use to get around it. we have yet to see how the higher courts will actually "interpet" the law. It would be nice to assume the DOJ is a subject matter expert on all laws, but sometimes their actions beggar that belief. I believe being offered and equivalent position would be fulfilling the law.

Bill, I logically think the... (Below threshold)

Bill, I logically think the DOJ taking this case up means they have the available facts, but this is the same department that made a yet to be fulfilled plea deal with Sandy Berger, Gonzalas as the General was a member and supporter of LaRaza, etc. Just taking up the case does not prove guilt. If this Wal Mart did in fact break the law, get em. ww

more to the story:<i... (Below threshold)

more to the story:

Thornton reported for active duty on May 30, 2006, according to the suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Orlando.

Less than two months later, he received an "uncharacterized" discharge because of a previously undiagnosed medical condition (asthma), the suit states.

"It's also called an entry level separation," said a spokeswoman for the Volusia County Veterans Services Division. "These discharges are given to individuals who separate prior to completing 180 days of military service."

Walmart replies:
"We have the utmost respect for our associates who serve in the military, and our company has provided longstanding support to our troops and their families," Wal-Mart corporate spokeswoman Daphne Moore wrote in an e-mail. "Following his return from the Air Force and after several conversations, Mr. Thornton was offered comparable employment which he declined. We currently have more than 3,000 U.S. associates -- more than any other company -- who are on military leaves of absence."


I doubt they would single out one military member when they have stood behind many others.

I logically think the DO... (Below threshold)

I logically think the DOJ taking this case up means they have the available facts, but this is the same department that made a yet to be fulfilled plea deal with Sandy Berger, Gonzalas as the General was a member and supporter of LaRaza, etc. Just taking up the case does not prove guilt. If this Wal Mart did in fact break the law, get em. ww

Wild Willie,

It can also be brought up that Walmart has been successfully sued for Wage & Hour violations. I worked for the company, one dumb manager one evening said employees would have to work off the clock. Don't know anyone who did at the store I was working at. It just takes one dumb or ignorant manager's decision to start a lawsuit.

People around here usually defend our troops when under assault or being insulted by Democrats. Why were none of them given the doubt like Wal-Mart? Hmm.......


SPQR, Matt, &c: Wal-Mart's ... (Below threshold)

SPQR, Matt, &c: Wal-Mart's not legally obligated to give a fucking Air Force pilot back his job as a cashier, so they're not assholes for not letting him continue to work there? Legality aside...

But Bill, Willie makes a good point: as for the DoJ, it would be nice if they understood/properly enforced the law, but telecom companies who are likely to be refused immunity for allowing warrantless wiretapping are learning the hard way that just because the DoJ says something is legal/illegal, doesn't make it so. (And screw the telcos for not looking into whether or not it was legal themselves.) How many DoJ attorneys went to bottom rung Christian ideological laboratories, instead of, you know, law schools? Too frickin' many...
notiz=I think you know why

If I understand the situati... (Below threshold)

If I understand the situation as reported above.

He quit Walmart to join the Military and did not tell the military about his asthma and was released.

The law was written for those that got called to active duty not those that volunteered for it.

It sounds like Walmart offered him a comparable paying job and he refused it.

Wal-Mart, as Denise noted i... (Below threshold)

Wal-Mart, as Denise noted in #13, has a long history of supporting employees who leave to fulfill their Guard or Reserve obligations.

Now, in any large operation, it is impossible to ensure that every single manager and employee is carrying out official policy properly. Mistakes do happen often, and sometimes rise to the level of criminality.

However, indicting the entire company on the mere suspicion it MAY have happened as alleged is rather ridiculous. DOJ is also a large operation and frankly has a much spottier record than Wal-Mart does.

As to giving Democrats who insult our troops the "benefit of the doubt," that is a false analogy. They stand up and make an accusation - JUST LIKE DOJ is doing here. The "benefit of the doubt" accrues to the accused: Wal-Mart in this case, and the troops in the hypothetical. There is no inconsistency whatever in that position.

I had always understood tha... (Below threshold)

I had always understood that laws protecting employment were aimed at National Guard and Reserves (can't get fired for needing your two weeks or mandatory weekends) and when those people were activated, for example to train and spend a year in Iraq.

I never NEVER understood that laws protecting civilian employment applied to active duty.

Besides which... if the guy left Wal-mart with no hard feelings, even if he didn't tell them where he was going, why not hire him back? Like they have too many cashiers?

Exactly, Synova. For what r... (Below threshold)

Exactly, Synova. For what reason would they refuse to let someone capable of flying a modern military aircraft operate an idiot-proof cash register? Make room for the guy, he's a veteran fer Chrissakes. Make him your spokesperson in the community! It's a PR opportunity that they've turned into a PR headache.

Matthew, where did you read... (Below threshold)
Boyd Author Profile Page:

Matthew, where did you read that Thornton was a pilot? Everything I've read, if it indicates anything at all, is that he was a very junior enlisted man, which would be a more logical fit with someone who is a once and future Wal*Mart cashier.

Something smells fishy here. I think in time we'll eventually learn a more complete version of what's going on here, and the actual situation won't match with the current narrative.






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