It wasn’t an accident that veterans found themselves on the losing end of suing an employer for punitive damages in discrimination cases. And there’s one HUGE irony. More on that in a moment.
WSJ: Military veterans are the big losers in the rollback of a Wisconsin law that had allowed women, minorities and other protected groups to sue in state court over employment discrimination, say leaders of a statewide veterans group. The change was designed by Republicans to help Wisconsin businesses avoid costs of frivolous lawsuits. The federal law allows veterans to sue for back pay, but not for punitive damages or other types of compensatory damages, said Michael Volpe, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor veterans services office.
The real kicker was this at the very end of the WSJ piece; the divisive head guy at the Department of Veterans Affairs is suing for discrimination…I’m not kidding:
Gourlie said he was disappointed the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs took no position on the change, even though Secretary John Scocos is personally suing the department in state court, alleging employment discrimination based on his military service. The department's board fired him in 2009. Walker gave him back his job in August.
And I loved this “no position” partisan position:
The lawsuit is pending. Department spokeswoman Carla Vigue said Scocos wouldn't comment. Vigue said the department took no position on the bill because it had "no practical impact on veterans."
Are these people idiots or what? Speaking of idiots...here's the author of the bill, Sen. Glenn Grothman:
…he didn't know about the federal limits on veterans, but it wouldn't have changed his mind, because fewer lawsuits will mean more jobs for everyone, including soldiers returning from war. "Employers facing punitive damages in court is a bad thing for jobs, and veterans want jobs," Grothman said. "…nobody thought two years ago that is was horrible to be a veteran."
I can't believe he said that. The article misleads a little here by insinuating that the issue was somehow “lost in the debate.” It wasn’t, but that's down the page.
Lost in the debate are little-known limits on the rights of veterans to sue in federal court … "Veterans were viewed, unfortunately, as collateral damage by small business, the Legislature and the governor in order to get that law through," said Michael Gourlie, a member of the Wisconsin Association of Concerned Veterans Organizations executive board and Wisconsin's Council on Veterans Programs, which advises the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
It wasn’t until the bill passed the legislature that someone notified Scott Walker, who never seemed to get the punitive damage thing.
|click pic to enlarge|
A Feb. 28 memo from a senior staff attorney at the Wisconsin Legislative Council spelled out the limited options for veterans in federal courts. Gourlie said he sent the memo to Gov. Scott Walker, but Walker signed the rollback bill into law on April 6. Gourlie later received a letter from the governor saying that the change "simply removed the duplicative and unnecessarily costly process of seeking punitive and compensatory damages in state court." Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said Thursday in an email no other veterans groups objected to the law.
But as you can see in the letter pictured here, Walker completely discounted how the law deters employers from ever discriminating in the first place. That’s why not one case came up since the law passed a few years ago. It was working.