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Attorney General Lawyers Seek to Silence FHP Employees in Military Discrimination Case

Posted on February 16, 2017

Attorney General Lawyers Seek to Silence FHP Employees in Military Discrimination Case

A contentious legal proceeding in state court involving the Florida Highway Patrol and a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves has taken an unusual turn.

Federal law prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee based on his or her membership in the United States military. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) was passed by the Congress to protect members of our armed forces from discriminatory acts.

Attorneys for former Highway Patrolman Robin Eric Barr, who has served in the U.S. Navy for three decades, claim he was terminated by the Florida Highway Patrol for conducting military funerals during military leave from the department. His abrupt termination came on the heels of Barr’s testimony to agency attorneys regarding another case of military discrimination by the FHP.

Barr is seeking reinstatement with the FHP as well as lost wages and benefits. The State refuses to settle the case.

However, this past week, after Barr’s legal team filed affidavits with the court from FHP employees who had personal knowledge of the discriminatory conduct committed against Barr, lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office representing FHP filed a motion to disallow the affidavits.

The FHP attorneys, citing the Florida Rule for Professional Conduct, argued that Barr was prohibited from discussing his case with employees of the FHP without the consent of the state.

Barr’s attorneys disagree, in a response have argued that the Florida Rule for Professional Conduct is not being interpreted correctly.

The issue before the court in the motion to strike is whether all state employees are “represented persons” whenever the state faces litigation. If those individuals are deemed represented, an opposing counsel could only discuss a case with them after receiving consent of and in the presence of the state’s lawyers.

Barr argues state employees are  “unrepresented persons” who may speak freely with whomever they wish.

The case is Robin Eric Barr v. State of Florida, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and Judge Hobbs is scheduled to hear testimony on dueling motions for summary judgment as well as the State’s motion to strike the affidavits.

Assuming neither side prevails in their respective motions for summary judgment, the case will go to trial before Judge Hobbs in Gadsden County on March 16-17, 2017.

3 Responses to Attorney General Lawyers Seek to Silence FHP Employees in Military Discrimination Case

  1. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot Reply

    February 19, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    So file a complaint with the US Dept of Justice. Let the federal court sort it out.

  2. Mr. Curious Reply

    February 20, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Seems as if the State wants to silence talk where obvious discrimination took place, then there is fire where this smoke is coming from. State should take a close investigative look into the entire issue involving Mr. Barr and if there was discrimination in the department’s handling of Barr’s case, they should settle. Make proper corrections as to not have this occur again, and move on with a better insight on how they should handle their employees. Especially those with military service.

  3. Old Cop Reply

    February 22, 2017 at 5:49 am

    Legal maneuvering is one thing, but illegal discrimination against an employee for lawful activity while on military leave is troubling. The federal law exists to ensure employees can be involved in reserve or national guard duties without adverse impact to their civilian employment. The law demands that employers not discriminate against an employee for military duty. That is to the betterment of the national defense.
    But, many employers find the law burdensome because the military may require the member for duty at the same time the employer needs him or her. In a law enforcement agency, the law can creat difficulty with scheduling, training, etc.
    the FHP is alleged to have a history of discriminating.
    The Governor should get to the bottom of the matter and make certain that DHSMV is not treating its employees in a manner that is harmful to the employee and to the national defense. That should be the state’s priority, not just winning the case.

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