The Justice Department has filed suit against Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, for failing to promote an Army National Guardsman because of anti-military bias.
According to the DOJ complaint, Sergeant First Class Timothy Stoner had been a PCC police officer since 2001. In 2006, the then police chief selected him to be Lead Police Officer, which Stoner served as until the position was abolished in 2009. The LPO duties were to be incorporated into a new position, Police Corporal.
In October 2009, Stoner, who had already served three years of active duty, was deployed to Afghanistan. Though he did not return until October 2010, he applied for the Police Corporal position from abroad. He also took a written examination and was interviewed by a three-member panel, and was selected to be one of the six finalists for the position. None of the other finalists, however, were members of the military.
All of the finalists were accepted, except Stoner and one other applicant, and Stoner was the only former LPO who was not chosen for the position.
According to the suit, Police Chief Stella Bay, who didn’t become chief until 2007, commented that it was “selfish” of Stoner to apply for the position while volunteering for active military duty. Chief Bay was one of two individuals responsible for deciding who did and did not get the promotion.
In 2013 PCC announced a new Police Corporal vacancy, for which Stoner again applied. Again he was selected to be a finalist — this time alongside only three others. Again he was the only member of the military. Again he was denied.
During this round of deliberations, Chief Bay stepped up her anti-military rhetoric, saying that “military service members are so used to taking orders that they cannot think for themselves and do not do well in stressful situations,” in the words of the DOJ suit.
Sgt. Stoner enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1993, has served four years of active duty, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been a member of the Army National Guard for the past 18 years. Stella Bay had been police chief of the community college’s Department of Public Safety, in charge of approximately 35 officers, for six years when she made the comment.
During Bay’s final deliberations about the promotion, she plainly stated her concerns about Stone’s eligibility for the position given his military obligations.
The DOJ holds that Bay’s refusal to promote Stoner, both times, violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, which “requires employers to put individuals back to work in their civilian jobs after military service” and “protects servicemembers from discrimination in the workplace based on their military service or affiliation.”
“Employers have a legal obligation to respect and honor the rights of our uniformed service members to be fairly considered for promotions and other employment opportunities and not to subject them to unlawful discrimination because of their service in defense of our country,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division.
The DOJ is demanding that PCC now promote Stoner to Police Corporal, as well as pay him all the wages and benefits he would’ve earned had he been promoted in 2010.
Bay herself resigned from her position in the summer of 2013, after numerous complaints that, in the words of one Associated Press report, “she had poisoned officer morale to the point of imperiling campus safety.”