A former deputy sheriff has filed a class action lawsuit against Canyon County, alleging the county made him use vacation time to fulfill his Idaho Army National Guard service duties.
James E. Richards filed the lawsuit in federal court Friday. The county prosecutor said Tuesday that the county does not comment on pending litigation.
According to Richards, the county policy was that employees use vacation time or other paid leave for their service-related absences, or that they compensate for time off by working more hours. Federal law says employees cannot be forced to use vacation leave to perform service duties.
Richards worked for Canyon County as a deputy sheriff between Feb. 28, 2008 and May 30, 2012 and has served in the military for about 27 years, the lawsuit said. Most of Richards' military service has been in the Idaho Army National Guard.
The county deducted about 190 hours of Richards' usual paid time off while he fulfilled his Guard service hours, he said in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that more than 25 people had a similar requirement to use vacation time and other paid leave to fulfill their military duties.
"They were required to use [vacation time] or they would not be considered full-time employees, which meant they lost all their benefits," said William Thomas, a lawyer for Richards. "They were penalized either way."
Richards' lawsuit said that by losing paid time that was due to him, he lost wages and the benefits that went along with his work hours, including pension benefits.
Richards now works for the state, Thomas said. Richards declined through his lawyer to be interviewed. He is asking for a jury trial.