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Lawsuit: SD Guard member fired after returning from training

RAPID CITY, S.D.--Rapid City-based BioFusion Health Products Inc. has violated the employment rights of former South Dakota Air National Guard Senior Airman Amber Ishmael by firing her while she attending a Guard leadership school, according to t...

RAPID CITY, S.D.-Rapid City-based BioFusion Health Products Inc. has violated the employment rights of former South Dakota Air National Guard Senior Airman Amber Ishmael by firing her while she attending a Guard leadership school, according to the state's U.S attorney.

Ishmael, currently with the Missouri Air National Guard, had been a member of the Guard since 2010 when she was terminated in February of 2015 from her job as a receptionist.

It's alleged her military service was a motivating factor in BioFusion's decision to both deny her request for reemployment and ultimately terminate her employment.

The department claims both actions by BioFusion violated Ishmael's rights as a service member to employment and reemployment under federal laws.

Ishmael was fired while she was out of state attending Airmen Leadership School, which is professional military education training associated with her military service, said the complaint.

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The U.S. Department of Justice is also involved in the lawsuit that was filed in the case.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the federal Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said laws "guarantee her right to return to civilian employment upon returning from military service. This lawsuit and the department's Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative demonstrate our steadfast commitment to leverage every resource and tool at the federal government's disposal to protect the rights of the men and women who defend our freedom and safeguard our way of life."

U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Randy Seiler said in a release Wednesday, "Members of our Air National Guard make many sacrifices, including spending months or years away from their jobs and families. When our service members are deployed in the service of our country, they

are entitled to retain their civilian employment and to the protections of federal law that prevent

them from being subject to discrimination based upon their military obligations. We are filing

suit ... to ensure that she does not lose her rights while she was protecting ours."

The lawsuit seeks damages equal to the amount of Ishmael's lost wages and benefits caused by BioFusion's failure to comply with federal laws. It also seeks orders requiring BioFusion's to comply with all provisions of the law and requires the company to pay all related litigation fees.

Ishmael initially filed a complaint with the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS), which investigated and attempted to reach a resolution between the parties. After the attempt at a resolution failed, VETS referred the complaint to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and then Seiler's office also became involved.

An almost 50-year veteran of the newspaper business, Amundson has worked for The Forum and Forum News Service for 15 years. He started as a sport reporter in Minnesota. He is currently the city and night reporter for The Forum. bamundson@forumcomm.com 701-451-5665
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