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Judge: Gold Cross didn't discriminate against vet

A federal magistrate judge in Duluth has ruled that Gold Cross Ambulance did not discriminate against a Superior combat Marine who claimed he was demoted and harassed when he returned to work as a paramedic after four years of military service.

Chad Lisdahl
Chad Lisdahl

A federal magistrate judge in Duluth has ruled that Gold Cross Ambulance did not discriminate against a Superior combat Marine who claimed he was demoted and harassed when he returned to work as a paramedic after four years of military service.

Chad L. Lisdahl filed a lawsuit against Mayo Medical Transport, doing business as Gold Cross Ambulance, and supervisor David B. Johnson in U.S. District Court in 2007. Lisdahl claimed that Gold Cross violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act.

He said he was treated as a trainee and worked under "intolerable and

discriminatory working conditions meted out by Gold Cross Ambulance and Johnson." Gold Cross denied the claims.

The suit asked for back pay, attorney's fees, differential pay, vacation and retirement credits and an order for Gold Cross to drop its requirement that Lisdahl retake the national registered paramedics' exam. A four-day court trial was held in August before U.S. Magistrate Judge Raymond Erickson, who issued his decision on Monday.

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Erickson found that Gold Cross and Johnson didn't discriminate against Lisdahl on the basis of his veteran's status, nor did they violate Lisdahl's rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act. The court dismissed the complaint with prejudice, which means Lisdahl is barred from bringing an action on the same claim.

Erickson criticized the plaintiff and his attorney in a memorandum to his order:

"During the course of his opening statement, Lisdahl's attorney voiced the truism that some cases have to be tried," Erickson wrote. "It is equally true, however, that some cases should not have been filed in the first instance and, given our findings and conclusions, this lawsuit is plainly one of those. Predicated upon a hodgepodge of hyperbole, revisionism, and outright fiction, Lisdahl's claims, under the USERRA, are unsupported by either the facts or the law."

Rochester, Minn., attorney Gregory Griffiths defended Gold Cross at the trial. "We're obviously very pleased with the decision," Griffiths said when reached by phone Monday evening. "We're very gratified that the judge confirmed our belief that Gold Cross and its employees acted properly regarding Mr. Lisdahl."

Lisdahl was represented at trial by attorney George Aucoin, a Marine Corps colonel from Louisiana who specializes in representing military members in job discrimination cases.

"We will absolutely appeal," Aucoin said. "I haven't had a chance to thoroughly review the 82-page opinion, but I believe there will be some appealable issues. It's a very rough day for veterans in the state of Minnesota, as interpreted by the federal court sitting in Minnesota anyway. Veteran rights are being trampled by business interests in the state of Minnesota."

Aucoin said Lisdahl hadn't yet read the decision.

Lisdahl was hired by Gold Cross in 1998 and worked his way up through three positions to become an assistant team captain. He went on his military leave of absence in 2002. For the next four years he served three combat tours in Iraq in armored reconnaissance units as a gunner and as a vehicle commander. He was discharged as a sergeant in October 2006.

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Gold Cross said Lisdahl was required to undergo orientation training when he returned to work because many new protocols and equipment had been put in place during his leave of absence. Lisdahl also would have to undergo an evaluation period so his skills could be assessed, and he would have to recertify as a nationally registered paramedic.

He returned to his position as assistant team captain and received the same pay, benefits and seniority as if he had never left employment, Gold Cross said.

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