FF-medic files suit against Wash. city over accrued military leave
The suit claims Ocean Shore's refusal to pay Travis Beard for military-related leave caused him "and his family to lose insurance coverage and benefits, because he had no paid hours during the month"
The Daily World, Aberdeen, Wash.
The city of Ocean Shores has been named in another federal lawsuit, this one also attached to an employee of the city's fire department.
Travis Bearden, hired as a firefighter/paramedic by the city in 2007, filed the suit in the Western District Court of Washington Jan. 13, claiming the city denied him owed accrued military leave in 2018 and 2020.
According to the complaint, Bearden joined the Army Reserves in 2013, attending basic training later that year. In March 2014, he returned from basic training to his job at the fire department.
"In March 2014, Mr. Bearden was advised by a co-worker ... that the (city) had attempted to find a legal method to terminate his employment due to his military obligations, but were unable to do so," read the complaint.
The response from the city of Ocean Shores filed with the court in mid-February to that allegation states the city "denies that it tried to terminate the plaintiff due to his military obligations."
The suit claims Bearden requested military leave accrued under state statute in September 2018 and the city "refused to provide Bearden that military leave, claiming that he did not have written orders."
In November 2019, the suit claims Bearden was activated for active duty, and in October 2020 he requested military leave from the city. The city's response to the suit notes Bearden "went on military leave in or about November 2019 and has remained on military leave since that time." The city confirmed Tuesday that Bearden is still on extended military leave.
Also in October 2020, the suit said Bearden filed a complaint about the situation with the Employment Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program established to promote understanding between reserve service members and civilian employers.
The program contacted the city regarding the complaint. According to the suit, the city's human resources specialist sent Bearden an email denying his military leave request.
The suit said the denial of accrued military paid leave "caused Mr. Bearden and his family to lose insurance coverage and benefits, because he had no paid hours during the month," and that the city "failed to make timely contributions to Mr. Bearden's retirement upon his return from military service."
Revised Code of Washington 38.40.060 states that any state, county, or city that is a member of national guard or any branch's reserve corps be entitled to and shall be granted military leave of absence for a period not exceeding 21 days during each year "in order that the person may report for required military duty, training or drills." The leave is "in addition to vacation or sick leave the employee might be entitled, or the loss of efficiency rating, privileges, or pay."
The city's response maintains the statute does not provide for an accrual of military leave.
Bearden's suit seeks damages, including making up all missing contributions to his retirement account within 30 days of his return following the completion of qualifying military leave, protection against city retaliation for the suit, attorneys fees and other economic and noneconomic damages related to pay and benefits, the amount of which will be determined by the court.
Bearden's attorneys have requested a jury trial in the case, scheduled for March 1, 2022.
The city's six-page response to the suit denies any wrongdoing by the city, stating it "takes nothing by his complaint" and requesting "that the complaint be dismissed with prejudice" and for the city be awarded its costs and attorney's fees related to the suit.
In April, David Bathke, fired from his position as fire chief with the city in March 2019, was awarded more than $730,000 from the city in the same federal court after the court deemed the city had "breached its contract" with Bathke when it terminated him.
(c)2021 The Daily World, Aberdeen, Wash.