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Wright v. City of Horn Lake

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

October 21, 2014

JOSHUA L. WRIGHT, PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF HORN LAKE, MISSISSIPPI AND DAVID LINVILLE, DEFENDANTS

For Joshua L. Wright, Plaintiff: Jim D. Waide, III, Ronnie Lee Woodruff, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Rachel Pierce Waide, WAIDE & ASSOCIATES, PA, Tupelo, MS.

For City of Horn Lake, Mississippi, David Linville, Defendants: R. Jeff Allen, LEAD ATTORNEY, HUNT ROSS & ALLEN, Clarksdale, MS.

Page 652

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Debra M. Brown, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff Joshua L. Wright filed this lawsuit against his former employer, the City of Horn Lake, Mississippi, and former supervisor, David Linville, asserting violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1984 (" USERRA" ) and various claims under Mississippi law. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed and/or refused to promote him while he was on active military leave, terminated him after he returned from military leave, and interfered with his efforts to find future employment. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on grounds that Plaintiff did not qualify

Page 653

for a promotion, was terminated for reasons unrelated to his military service, and failed to provide pre-suit notice for his state law claims. For the reasons below, the Court finds that Defendants' motion for summary judgment should be granted in part and denied in part.

I

On August 12, 2002, Plaintiff began working as a firefighter at the City of Horn Lake Fire Department. While employed there, Plaintiff was often called to active duty with the Air National Guard, for which he had served since February 10, 2000. At the times alleged in this lawsuit, Plaintiff was a Fire Lieutenant and Defendant David Linville was the Fire Chief of the Horn Lake Fire Department. According to Plaintiff, Linville often made negative remarks about the time Plaintiff's military service took away from his job at the fire department. Am. Compl. [20] at 2.

On July 15, 2011, Plaintiff received military orders to report to active duty beginning July 18, 2011, at the Air National Guard Base in Memphis, Tennessee. See Doc. [20-1]. Pursuant to those orders, Plaintiff reported to duty.

In or around November 2011, while Plaintiff was on active duty leave, the position of Battalion Chief became available in the Horn Lake Fire Department. One of the prerequisites for the position was passing an out-of-rank test. Plaintiff took the test but did not receive a passing score. Subsequently, he filed a grievance regarding the testing procedure. Doc. [70-9]. Brad Jones, a firefighter hired around the same time as Plaintiff, was ultimately selected as Battalion Chief. See Jones Dep. [70-8] at 5. There is a factual dispute between the parties regarding whether, prior to the posting, the City required applicants to pass an out-of-rank test to qualify for a promotion.[1]

On March 31, 2012, Plaintiff completed his military leave with the Air National Guard. By letter dated April 2, 2012, Fire Chief Linville recommended Plaintiff's termination for failing to report to his regularly scheduled shift. Doc. [20-3]. Plaintiff appealed the recommendation, and the Mayor of Horn Lake[2] rescinded Linville's request for termination.[3] Doc. [20-5]. On May 17, 2012, Plaintiff returned to work.

From May 17, 2012, to June 1, 2012, Plaintiff received approximately six write-ups for employment violations over the course of the five days he worked during that period. The violations included wearing improper work attire, having a disrespectful attitude to a supervisor, blocking a traffic lane for non-work related activity, disrupting neighbors with loud noise, wearing a gun to ...


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