Feds sue Ariz. community college alleging 'anti-military bias'
The Department of Justice is suing Pima Community College claiming school officials broke the law twice by denying a job promotion to an Army National Guard soldier because of “anti-military bias.”
The guard member, Timothy Stoner, a campus police officer since 2001, was passed over for promotion to police corporal in 2010 near the end of a year-long tour in Afghanistan and again in 2013, the suit says.
The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act makes it illegal for a civilian employer to deny a job or promotion based on an employee’s military service obligations.
The DOJ wants a judge to order PCC to promote Stoner to police corporal and to compensate him for financial losses that resulted from the school’s alleged wrongdoing.
“Employers have a legal obligation to respect and honor the rights of our uniformed service members to be fairly considered for promotion … and not to subject them to unlawful discrimination because of their service in defense of our country,” said a DOJ news release on the case.
“PCC’s demonstration of anti-military bias was willful,” the news release said.
“In each of the two years, Stoner’s military service was a motivating factor in PCC’s decision to deny him promotion,” it said.
College officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday, but in an email to employees, PCC Chancellor Lee Lambertsaid the school intends to “aggressively” fight the soldier’s claims.
“We are confident that the evidence will establish there was no violation of federal law and that the outcome of the promotion process was based on appropriate factors,” Lambert’s email said.
The lawsuit, filed Friday by the department’s civil rights division, claims the same two PCC officials were responsible in both cases for the decisions to deny the promotions.
One of those named in court records is David Bea, PCC’s executive vice chancellor for finance and administration. The other is former PCC police chief Stella Bay,who resigned last year amid employee complaints of a hostile workplace under her leadership.
Bea was Bay’s boss at the time and the two made the promotion decisions jointly, the suit said.
The lawsuit claims Bay repeatedly made negative comments about Stoner’s military service to Bea and other college employees.
In the 2013 case, “Chief Bay expressed her opinion that military service members are so used to taking orders that they cannot think for themselves and do not do well in stressful situations,” the lawsuit said
In 2010, when Stoner applied for promotion as he was about to return from Afghanistan, “Chief Bay commented to another PCC police officer that Stoner was selfish to apply for promotion while volunteering for active military duty,” the lawsuit said.
Stoner, a sergeant first class in the National Guard, was one of six applicants for the promotion in 2010 and the only one with ties to the military.
The five others all were promoted, the suit said.
In 2013, he was one of three finalists for promotion and again the only one with military ties. A non-military applicant got the job, it said.