HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An 18-year-old Marine reservist has sued a Milford auto dealership in federal court, saying he was fired because of his service in the military.

Attorneys for Derek Laaser filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport.

It alleges that Laaser was told by a supervisor at Chevrolet of Milford that he had to choose between the reserves or his job as a technician at the dealership, in direct violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

According to the lawsuit, the Service Manager Nick Saccomanno provided Laaser with a written memo in March indicating his dismissal had nothing to do with his job performance but was based on his decision to “pursue a career in the military.”

“That sort of proves that this was a knowing and willful disregard for the federal law protecting our client’s right to serve in the military without any kind of discrimination, attorney John DiManno said.

Saccomanno declined to talk about the lawsuit Thursday, but said he had forwarded a request for comment to the dealership’s attorneys.

Laaser, who begins basic training on Monday, said in the lawsuit that he was promoted from his job as a part-time technician to a Class C mechanic in January, a month after being accepted and sworn into the reserves.

According to the lawsuit, he was asked by Saccomanno in February if he could work weekends at the dealership.

Laaser said he agreed to be available, but reminded his boss that he was committed to drill with the reserves during the first weekend of each month and two weekends during the summer.

He said he also had informed the dealership that he would need to attend about three months of basic training at Parris Island, followed by 29 days of combat training in Massachusetts, and eight weeks of occupational training in Missouri.

According to the lawsuit, Laaser was told by Saccomanno that he had a “military mindset” and that he needed to “choose between a career at Chevrolet of Milford or leaving for military service.”

Laaser said he was fired on March 9.

“Perhaps people do need more education on (the law), particularly with the amount of people who are enlisting,” said DiManno. “But if they weren’t aware of it, they should have been. This statute has been around for quite some time.”

Laaser is seeking unspecified monetary damages and reinstatement to his job and the General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program.

DiManno said Laaser needs the GM training to complete the requirements for an associate’s degree in automotive technology at Gateway Community College.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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