Pennsylvania County Settles with Veteran Who Lost Job While Deployed

A gavel lays on a table. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Devin M. Rumbaugh)
A gavel lays on a table. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Devin M. Rumbaugh)

Allegheny County paid a $110,000 settlement to a county public defender who returned from a U.S. Air Force deployment in 2013 to find that he no longer had a job.

Barry Wingard, 51, of Indiana Township filed a federal lawsuit against the county in December 2015. Federal law requires employers to hold open jobs for military personnel on deployment for up to five years.

Wingard began working for the county in 2001 as a public defender. He previously worked for the county in the mid-1990s.

In July 2008, he was called to active duty to serve in Operation Enduring Freedom as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General Corps.

When Wingard, a lieutenant colonel, returned from deployment in September 2013, county officials told him his job had been filled because he was gone longer than five years, the complaint says.

Wingard had been away five years and two months.

The requirement does not apply to Wingard, however, the complaint said, because of a provision in the law that exempts "servicemen who are ordered to or retained on active duty ... under any provision of law because of a war or national emergency declared by the President or the Congress, as determined by the Secretary concerned."

In October 2014, Wingard retired from the Air Force, and the county rehired him, but said he had been on "unauthorized leave" for all of 2014, docked his pay for taking days off for which he had not been eligible, and reduced his retirement seniority, the complaint said. Wingard's 2017 salary is $59,554 a year. In 2016, Wingard ran unsuccessfully to be a district judge in the Fox Chapel area.

When he filed the lawsuit, he said he had not been granted the 50 sick days, 20 vacation days and three personal days he had accrued by 2008.

The settlement agreement says the county will reinstate 27 sick days and 16 vacation days, and credit his pension for the years he was deployed.

Wingard's attorney, Sam Cordes, said he could not discuss the case because of a confidentiality agreement.

Allegheny County officials did not provide a comment by publication time.

The county paid $51,200 to Wingard and $58,799 in attorney fees.

This article is written by Theresa Clift from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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