- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - U.S. Steel Corp. wrongly fired an Air Force reservist because she missed work due to her military deployments, according to allegations in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The plaintiff, Rebecca Jackanic, 33, of Coraopolis, said the company used restructuring as a pretext to fire her.

Jackanic said she had worked for U.S. Steel as an aircraft dispatcher or safety management specialist since 2002. In those jobs, Jackanic helped direct company-owned planes that carry executives to various U.S. Steel operations and to ensure the planes complied with federal safety regulations, she said.

Jackanic was also a sergeant in the reserves and deployed to Kuwait from 2003 to 2005, and at various times to other Middle East missions in 2009 and 2010.

But Jackanic was fired in March, after she had deployed for a training missing involving aircraft housed at the 911 Air Wing west of Pittsburgh in November 2012.

“Upon her return from military leaves of absence, plaintiff was often placed on the least desirable shifts compared to other employees in similar positions,” her lawsuit said.

Her last deployment ended in May, but she was fired two months earlier when a U.S. Steel official left a message on her cellphone telling her that she “had been terminated on account of an alleged reorganization/restructuring,” the lawsuit said.

Jackanic contends that, in fact, U.S. Steel officials didn’t like working around her Air Force reserve commitments.

A U.S. Steel spokeswoman said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Jackanic told The Associated Press it was clear her military commitments were a problem for the company.

“When I would get back from previous deployments, it was always made known that my military service was in issue,” she said.

Her attorney, Timothy O’Brien, said that violates the Uniform Services Employment Reemployment Rights Act, which is supposed to protect military members from reprisals if they miss work, as well as Pennsylvania laws barring discrimination against military members.

“This case is about the cumulative effect of someone taking military leaves of absence and because of that, they’re viewed as potentially more expendable than someone who isn’t in the military,” O’Brien said. “And that’s exactly what the law is designed to prevent.”

Jackanic is seeking unspecified damages to compensate her for back pay and other losses, and punitive damages to discourage similar behavior by U.S. Steel in the future.

Jackanic is not working outside the reserves, for whom she now works part-time. Her most recent training was to become a flight engineer, which is someone who monitors the operating systems of C-130 cargo and personnel transport planes in flight.

“I feel I put my country first and if that means I have to be away from my job, that’s what I have to do,” Jackanic said.

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