ALBANY, Ga. -- Westover Comprehensive High School teacher John Daughety has notified the Dougherty County School System that he intends to file a federal lawsuit against the district.
Daughety, who has worked for the school system since 2002, contends that the system went against federal law when it reduced his teacher's salary following his 15-month military service in Afghanistan as a member of the 48th Brigade of the Georgia National Guard. He returned to Albany in late March and reported to work for DCSS April 5.
On behalf of Daughety, Albany attorney Johnnie Graham sent a two-page notice of a claim to the school system, superintendent Joshua Murfree, DCSS Attorney Tommy Coleman, school board members and the U.S. Secretary of Labor on June 29. In the notice, Graham stated that Daughety's per month gross income was reduced from $4,216 to $1,980.31.
The basis of the lawsuit is the United States Code enacted in 1994 under Title 38, Section 4313, (2) as part of its "Reemployment positions" basis.
"(This section) provides that upon completion of active duty for more than 90 days, the service member is to be restored to the position of employment held before deployment with the same pay and benefits as if his employment had not not been interrupted by his uniformed service," Graham wrote. "That being the case, his pay per month should be the same as it was before he deployed to Afghanistan."
Daughety said Tuesday that he would still like to avoid filing a lawsuit against the system.
"I'd hope to avoid litigation and that's still my desire; however I expect to be returned to my pay and my attorney's fees being paid as the law states," said Daughety, a six-year member of the Georgia National Guard and 15-year Marine. "This is not the way to treat a veteran who fought for the country. I've made it through July, but I'm going to have to have some creative financing to make it through August.
"It's frustrating because the law is crystal clear. They've shorted me for April, May and June, and I've still got August and September to pay on this contract."
Coleman said he had received Graham's notice that Daughety had intended to sue the school system and had forwarded it to the Georgia School Boards Association's insurance company out of Atlanta. He also said Tuesday that the school system's stance on Daughety's potential lawsuit hasn't changed.
As he stated in early June, Coleman said he believes the school system has paid Daughety correctly and cited Part (B)(1)(A) of Title 38, Section 4316 under "Rights, benefits, and obligations of persons absent from employment for service in a uniformed service" for the basis of the school system's stance. Coleman said that the 4316 Part (B)(1)(A) statute "requires that a person who is absent from employment by reason of service in the armed forces shall be 'deemed to be on furlough or leave of absence while performing such service'."
Coleman said that the system paid Daughety for the 37 days he worked and for 18 days of military leave. In essence, Coleman said that Daughety's "pay has not changed at all."
Daughety disagreed. He said the school system is basing its current monthly pay to him on what he made last year -- when he taught only part of the year.
"So you're comparing apples to oranges," he said.
On Tuesday, Daughety also said that the school system could be penalized double damages if he files and wins his lawsuit. In the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Resource Guide in its Private Court Actions Section 4323(a), it states that, "Award of back pay or lost benefits may be doubled in cases where violations of the law are found to be willful."
"To me, (the school system's) actions are willful because I've provided them documentation of the federal law," Daughety said.
As to when the possible lawsuit may be filed, Graham couldn't be reached by The Herald for comment Tuesday afternoon.