Missouri Captain Claims Military Discrimination Blocked Promotion

A Missouri fire captain has filed suit claiming he was passed over for promotion to assistant chief because of an impending military deployment. Captain Zach Sierks filed suit today in US District Court for the Western District of Missouri, naming the Prairie Township Fire Protection District and its three board members.

Captain Sierks claims that when an assistant chief opening occurred earlier this year, he began hearing rumors that he would not be considered due to his military commitment to the U.S. Air Force Reserves, including an upcoming deployment. He approached the fire chief, who denied the rumor was true, but acknowledged discussing the fact that “it would be too difficult to have Plaintiff in the Asst. Chief position, as they needed someone in the position through the entire Consolidation efforts with LFPD.”

When the selection process was completed on June 17, 2020, Captain Sierks was informed that another candidate would be promoted. However, he was told that he would receive the next assistant chief promotion. Captain Sierks brought his concerns about the selection process to the president of the district’s Board of Directors, who told him there was nothing that could be done.

The complaint alleges a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Captain Sierks is seeking compensatory damages for lost wages, liquidated damages, attorneys fees and associated costs of litigation.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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