BOISE, Idaho — A former deputy sheriff for Canyon County claims officials wrongly docked his vacation benefits while he was off the clock fulfilling his service obligations with the Idaho Army National Guard, in a recently filed federal lawsuit.
James E. Richards worked for the sheriff's office between February 2008 and May 2012 and alleges that during that time, officials deducted about 190 hours of his paid time off while he fulfilled his service duties, in court documents filed Friday.
The lawsuit alleges more than 25 people had a similar experience with service-related absences while working for the county in southwestern Idaho.
Richards is seeking class action status.
"They were required to use (vacation time) or they would not be considered full-time employees, which meant they lost all their benefits," said attorney William Thomas, who is representing Richards in the case. "They were penalized either way."
A prosecutor for the county declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Federal law says employers can deduct service hours from vacation benefits if the employee requests it, the Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/RDlpNZ ).
The policy enforced by Canyon County required employees use vacation time or other paid leave benefits for service-related absences, or that they compensate for the time they took off by working additional hours, according to the lawsuit.
Richards, who has served in the military for about 27 years and mostly with the Idaho Army National Guard, claims that he lost wages and benefits by having the paid time owed to him deducted under the policy, according to his lawsuit.
He is seeking a jury trial.
Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com