Going to Bat for a Laid-Off Veteran

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* By Kevin Cullen The Boston Globe *

The most important thing you can do when you come back from war — and Chris Thornton has done it three times — is hug your kids, kiss your wife, and go back to work.

“What you want, more than anything,’’ Chris Thornton says, “is that sense of normalcy. Everything back to what it was before you left.’’

He is a chief petty officer in the Navy reserves and last spring he finished a yearlong deployment to Iraq. In civilian life, he was a foreman for Florence Electric in Taunton, and he was just happy to go back to work and start to feel normal again.

But three weeks into his old life, Joe Pereira, one of the supervisors at Florence Electric, called him into the office.

“There had been a lot of cutbacks, and I figured Joe was going to say I had to take a hit, a 10 percent pay cut or something like that,’’ Thornton said.

If only. Joe Pereira said they were letting him go.

“You kind of lost your spot,’’ Thornton says Pereira told him.

Chris Thornton walked out of that office, wondering how he was going to take care of his wife and three kids, and knowing in his heart that he’d been wronged. He knew there were five guys still working who had less time with the company, and that if he had lost his spot, he lost it serving his country.

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Chris Thornton fought in the first war in Iraq, Operation Desert Storm. A lot of guys who fought then came back and found their jobs had been given away. In response, Congress passed a law that says employers have to rehire returning vets who give up their jobs to serve and can’t lay them off for at least a year, except for cause.

Chris Thornton remembered that a guy in his unit from Hingham named Keith Jermyn had been laid off from his electrician’s job in 2006 after they got back from Iraq. Jermyn had called his state representative, Garrett Bradley, who in civilian life is a lawyer.

Bradley had gone to bat for Jermyn and got him his back pay and his job back. So Jermyn called Bradley again, asking him to help his buddy Chris Thornton, and Bradley quickly agreed. Bradley figured it would just take a few letters, reminding Thornton’s boss of the law that protects returning veterans.

Instead, Bradley got an indignant response from the law firm of Nixon Peabody, saying, in effect, bring it on.

Read more at The Boston Globe

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