ActivePaper Archive Manager seeking justice for reservists - Hobbs News Sun, 2013-12-06

• LAWSUIT

Manager seeking justice for reservists

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Murphy

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J.J. Murphy, right, poses with Tech Sergeant Matt Ruch in front of a C-130 while serving with the Air Force reservists in Africa.

City of Hobbs Manager J.J. Murphy is proud to be an Air Force reservist.

When he was hired as the Hobbs city manager more than a year ago, he was happy that city commissioners and administration had no issues with his desire to serve.

According to Murphy, however, not all city governments feel the same way.

In 2010, Murphy filed a lawsuit against Radnor Township, Penn., Board of C o m m i s s i o n e r s claiming he was not hired for a city administrator position there because of his commitment with the Air Force Reserve.

First reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Murphy applied for the manager position of Radnor Township in 2009. Murphy contends that the town’s commissioners discriminated against him because they were worried that his involvement with the Air Force Reserve would require him to be away too often.

“As a reservist, I know this happens more frequently around the country to other reservists — that they are discriminated against because of their reserve duty,” Murphy said. “The problem with Radnor is that they were so blatant in telling me that this was the reason. So the principle part of me fighting this is that, hopefully, in the future other military members won’t have to encounter the same discrimination based on their military service.”

Murphy said the alleged incident is a violation of the federal Uniform Services Employment and Reemployement Rights Act, which bans employers from using an applicant’s military commitment against them during hiring decisions.

Murphy said the attorneys for both sides and the judge decided on a Feb. 24 trial date in federal court in Philadelphia. He is seeking back pay and damages.

“I’m doing it based on the principal of the idea but I’m also doing it for justice,” Murphy said. “My family was financially harmed significally. I went almost two years being self-employed and it was a struggle. I (then) took a job across country and for the first 10 months, my family wasn’t here. It was a significant lifestyle change for my family.”

News of the lawsuit broke Wednesday afternoon, about the time Murphy was en route to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida for a 10-day military tour. With the Air Force Reserve Murphy coordinates search and rescue missions throughout the country. He said he normally takes about three tours a year and tries to scheduled them during holidays. He also has a handful of weekend assignments that take place during the year.

Murphy said he serves the military about 35 days a year. Federal law states that an employer must provide 15 days of paid military leave.

“Once that is used, J.J. uses his personal time to fulfill his duty,” said City of Hobbs Commissioner John Boyd.

Boyd added that while on duty Murphy is easy to contact if an issue arises.

“He takes care of city business prior to leaving,” Boyd said. “He is sure that everything is organized and will run smoothly. He is available by phone at all times and is not absent all the time he is gone. He may be absent from his office but not from the city. He is still calling the shots from where he is.”

Boyd, who also served as a reservist with the U.S. Army, commended Murphy for his military service. He is also happy with Murphy’s willingness to continue the lawsuit despite the fact that he has been employed with the City of Hobbs since August 2012.

“This is about more than J.J. Murphy, this is about a lot of other people in our country that serve as they are called upon to serve,” said Boyd. “That dedication is admirable, it is not a negative.”

Boyd was a member of the search committee that recommended Murphy for the job. He said that all of the members were very positive about the fact that Murphy was willing to serve his country.

“We saw it as a positive, not a negative,” Boyd said. “Because from these things come leadership and his leadership is shown through what he has done so far and him being in that position is a definite positive in who he is.” Murphy said the support he has received from the Hobbs commission, administration and employees and residents has been appreciated. “They have been nothing but completely supportive of me,” Murphy said.

Todd Bailey can be reached at 575-391-5440 or at editor@hobbsnews.com.