Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
An Illinois Air National Guardsman is claiming the Chicago Cubs, through its employees, violated his rights under a federal statute protecting his employment while in service.
Alan Werdehoff, employed by the baseball team as a part time logistics supervisor for just over a year until March 2019, claimed violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA) and its Illinois sister statute, in Chicago federal court.
Under USERRA, a member of the National Guard cannot be discriminated against if he or she is required for service, which includes one weekend a month and other days of the year.
In his complaint, filed Dec. 18, Werdehoff claims a fellow staff member began complaining to other logistics supervisors shortly after his first weekend absence for his required monthly Air National Guard training. This continued through the year, the lawsuit claims.
His complaint states that the situation began to escalate in December 2018, when the National Guard notified him he was needed for service from Dec. 11 to Dec. 14. He sent a text message informing his fellow supervisors of his required attendance, after which he claims the same employee complained.
Werdehoff then complained to more senior members of the organization that he believed the employee was creating a hostile work environment and informed them of his protected status as an air national guardsman.
Among his complaints, he alleged he was told to find others to cover the shifts when he would not be available, which is not required under the federal statute. He also claims to have been told to provide a formal command notification letter, which again is not required, according to the complaint.
In January, Werdehoff again had to go on service duty, after which he claims his hours were reduced considerably.
Werdehoff filed a USERRA complaint of unlawful retaliation, and also warned he was going to make a formal one to the U.S. Department of Labor.
After his shifts were again reduced through March, Werdehoff told the Cubs he was resigning, the complaint states. However, prior to the last day of work, he was told his employment was terminated.
The Cubs' action was “willful, wanton, intentional, malicious, and done with reckless indifference to and callous disregard for Werdehoff’s rights,” the complaint alleges. As a result of the Cubs actions, Werdehoff has suffered significant harm.”
Werdehoff says he is now required to address his termination when he applies to renew his national security clearance and when applying for other employment.
The plaintiff is represented by Julie O. Herrera of Steve Molitor Law Office in Chicago.
A federal judge has directed the Cubs to respond to the complaint by Jan. 30.