Fired for Reporting to Duty - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Fired for Reporting to Duty

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John DeLuca John DeLuca

He joined the Army Reserves to help defend our country, and when he told a boss he had to go to a training mission, he was fired. Can you fire a soldier for reporting to duty? It's why one South Florida man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- John DeLuca decided to join the Army Reserves for two good reasons.

John DeLuca: "To serve my country, to get some money for school. Definitely I'm happy serving my country and get some school money out of it."

The Army only covers part of his school bills, so John needed a job, and when he applied to a computer repair company, he was upfront with them.

John DeLuca: "'I'm in the Army Reserve. Occasionally I'm going to have to miss a day here or there, annual training for a week or two.' They were totally cool with it at that point."

John got the job in part, he thinks, because he is in the Reserves.

John DeLuca: "It will be beneficial to hire a Reserves or Guards man because of all their training and discipline. The responsibility we have with the military will definitely transfer over, make better employees."

John says he liked his job, but after a few months he noticed his bosses were not happy when he had to miss a day.

John DeLuca: "Between VA appointments and drills and missing more days than everyone else, I guess it started to be too much on their end."

Then one weekend, after returning from an Army drill, he was notified he had to go on another training mission a month later, so he contacted a supervisor to let him know.

John DeLuca: "He was upset that I called on Sunday, that he was with his family, which I can understand, but basically he told me he was going to be upset if I needed more days off."

John then began texting the boss and gave him the dates of when he would be out of work.

In this text his boss responded: "You can thank the Army for you not having a job anymore because that is where this is headed."

John responded to his boss: "I will thank them."

His boss texted back: "You're being a smart [expletive] ... you're fired."

John DeLuca: "I was just upset that my service would, could lead to something like this. For them to do that I was a little hurt, especially the person that said that to me was a veteran himself."

Fired by a veteran for reporting for Army Reserve duty, which surprised John because his company had these posters that explains servicemen and women's rights under the USERRA law.

John DeLuca: "I was just mind-boggled that they fired me for that, and they have that poster hanging up on their office."

Well, someone didn't pay attention, so when the Army told John, 'You need to show up for a training mission,' his boss fired him. Howard, can they do that?

Howard Finkelstein: "No, they cannot. Members of the military are protected by a federal law that says, if a service calls them up for training or battle, the law prohibits their employer from firing them, demoting them or doing anything that affects their job."

When we talked to the attorney for the computer repair company, he told us they had the right to fire John because he would not provide written proof that he was going into training. John says that's not true, that he always gave notice in writing or e-mails. And there are still the texts showing John was fired immediately when he said he was going to be gone in a month. The owner told us he had not seen these texts. The company's attorney said they were taken out of context, but now the federal government may be involved. John has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, who will investigate his firing.

Howard says, bottom line, the company is wrong.

Howard Finkelstein: "Their defense that John didn't give them notice is writing doesn't matter. According to the federal law, he can tell them verbally, and he did put it in writing in a text. If the Labor Department agrees with me, John can get his job back, back wages, his attorney's fees and court costs."

Being in the Reserves probably cost John this job, but he says it's worth it.

John DeLuca: "Joining the military is one of the most positive things I have experienced, done in my life, and it's bettered my life in so many ways that I don't think it would have been possible without."

John is now looking for a job while the Labor Department investigates the company that fired him. And by the way, if the government determines John was wrongfully fired and the company doesn't agree to settle, John could get double back pay if a judge concludes the company knew John was going on Reserve duty and fired him anyway. Those texts will be important in the case.

Feel it's your duty to battle a problem? Want to reserve a little help? Enlist us through the phone, e-mail or text. We would love to fight for you.

With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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