Monday, July 27, 2009

Georgia Gulf War Veteran with Gulf War Syndrome loses job, sues

A former county public works employee has accused the department and his bosses of discrimination for having him clean toilets, work out of a closet and forcing him to resign due to his Gulf War Syndrome affliction.

Steven E. Hohensee Jr., 35, of New Haven, filed a discrimination lawsuit Wednesday against Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, public works operations manager Dino Bucci and the public works department. He is asking Judge James Biernat of Macomb County Circuit Court to award him back pay and benefits, exemplary damages and re-employment with the county.

Hohensee said he was hired in January 2003 as an engineering technician and resigned in August 2007 after he was harassed. He said he was forced to work out of a broom closet, a sewer station and to clean toilets and sewers. Hohensee "resigned ... under protest, as having been subjected to a design by Defendants for constructive discharge," the lawsuit says.

Hohensee's attorney, Lawrence Schloss, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Marrocco's chief deputy, William Misterovich, said Friday his office had not yet been served with the legal papers and could not comment at this time.

Hohensee says in the lawsuit the defendants "were aware at all times" that he suffered from Gulf War Syndrome. With the knowledge of his superiors, he participated in "rehabilitation" regarding his condition in early 2007. His physician evaluated him on June 25, 2007, and indicated Hohensee could return to his job as an engineering technician.

But the defendants, the lawsuit says, required him to undergo a second examination, after which the physician said he should return to his post July 9, 2007, without restrictions.

From that date until his resignation about five weeks later, the lawsuit contends that Hohensee suffered from "adverse employment action and work place harassment" and written reprimands "for previously approved sick leave and (family) leave."

He was assigned to the broom closet, which he protested, and then was assigned to a sewer cleaning station to clean sewers and toilets, "accompanied by demeaning remarks and conditions for plaintiff's skills and job qualifications."

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