Andrew Lanier got bad news twice in one day in October 2011.
First, his Pennsylvania Army National Guard unit's deployment to Iraq was canceled, dashing his hopes to serve his country abroad. Second, Target fired him for failing to comply with its call-off policy while he was training for that deployment, according to a lawsuit he filed Wednesday.
Mr. Lanier, 21, of Toronto, Ohio, but formerly of Sewickley, told supervisors at the Target store in North Fayette that he was a guardsman when he took a job there in early 2011, he said in an interview. When he was ordered to mandatory active duty pre-deployment training at Fort Pickett, Va., he told his supervisors, used the electronic time-off request system and provided the store with a copy of his military orders confirming the dates of his assignment, according to the complaint.
"Mr. Lanier gave all the notice that anyone could possibly want," said Timothy O'Brien, one of his attorneys.
Target has a policy that employees have to call in every day they are absent, according to the complaint. The retailer fired him for failing to call in during his training, in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, and state wrongful discharge laws, according to the complaint.
He seeks compensation for lost wages and benefits, for embarrassment and punitive damages.
Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said the company "wholeheartedly supports" the many armed services members among its 361,000 employees.
"As a company, we are committed to following all federal, state and local laws, including USERRA," she wrote in an email.
Store employees, she wrote, "are required to follow Target's time off request process, which includes giving reasonable advance notice of a planned absence. But under no circumstances are team members participating in military service required to call in daily."
Attorney Michael Kraemer, also representing Mr. Lanier, said that Target was informed months ago that Mr. Lanier's firing may run afoul of the law, but has taken no action.
Ms. Snyder said that though Target "has no record of his request for time off, we are exploring his concerns."
Mr. Lanier said he joined Company B, 128th Support Maintenance Battalion, based in Banksville, because his "whole family was in the military. ... I wanted to go to the Army because my grandfather was Army."
He said he was honorably discharged from the guard. He has not been able to find a steady job since his termination, and plans to enlist in the Army and join the military police.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord. First Published June 19, 2013 5:00 PM