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Fire officials sued in Springdale

FAYETTEVILLE -- A former Springdale firefighter has sued the city and his former bosses claiming he was forced to quit after he was retaliated against and ostracized for taking time off to care for his dying son.

Eric Anderson filed suit in federal court claiming the city, Chief Mike Irwin, former Assistant Chief Kevin McDonald, who is now retired, and Assistant Chief Ron Skelton violated the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Ernest Cate, Springdale's city attorney, said today the city had not been served with the lawsuit and so he had no comment.

The suit contends Anderson's son was diagnosed in June 2014 with a cancerous brain tumor. By 2016 his condition began to worsen, and Anderson requested leave intermittently, according to the suit. Anderson also began trading shifts with other firefighters to be better able to care for his child, attend training and to make up shift hours, according to the lawsuit.

Anderson continued to take time off and arrange shift swaps in 2016 and 2017 when his son was in out-of-state hospitals for care, according to the lawsuit.

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The lawsuit contends administrators decided Anderson's time off was unacceptable. He was then denied permission to trade shifts, and administrators began to retaliate against him and bully him, according to the lawsuit.

Anderson claims changes in the shift-trading policy in June 2017 were a direct attack on him for taking time off. He also contends the policy change angered co-workers, who began to ostracize him. Anderson's son died in August 2017.

"Since the announcement of the policy, Eric has been treated with such contempt that his continued employment was intolerable, and he was forced to find work elsewhere," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, seeks damages, including back pay and front pay for retaliation and an order enjoining Springdale officials from violating terms of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

NW News on 02/14/2018

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