LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A man agreed to allow an arbitrator rather than a jury decide his claims against a Hawthorne defense technology company in which he alleges he was harassed and derided for his military service and obligations, called a ``crazy Army guy'' and ultimately wrongfully fired because of those obligations in 2022.
Army officer Bradley Schamel's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit was filed Jan. 31 against Epirus Inc., alleging wrongful termination, discrimination based on military service and status, disability discrimination, harassment, retaliation and failure to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment. On Thursday, the parties filed court papers with Judge Upinder S. Kalra stating that both sides had agreed to binding arbitration. The judge's signed order puts the lawsuit on hold pending the outcome and a post-arbitration status conference is scheduled April 9, 2024.
Schamel suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, the suit states. He holds an MBA and was hired by Epirus in January 2019 as chief of staff, then in September of that year management decided to promote him within a few months to chief strategy officer with a raise and the granting of stock, the suit states. In late October or early November 2019, Schamel told management about an upcoming military deployment to Ukraine and he went on a leave that was extended due to the coronavirus, the suit states.
Upon his return, Schamel was demoted by the company to the job of director of business development, a move the plaintiff alleges was done because of his military membership and deployment. Schamel was referred to by managers as a ``dumb army guy who doesn't know how to do his job'' and as the ``crazy Army guy,'' the suit states. In August 2021, Epirus hired Rob Bocek as chief business officer and he became Schamel's immediate supervisor, the suit states.
``Bocek maintained a campaign of harassment, intimidation and bullying towards plaintiff based on plaintiff's membership in the armed services, his current military obligations and his (PTSD) disability,'' the suits states. Schamel also alleges his military service prompted Epirus to deny him the position of vice president of sales. Only one other person applied for the job and Bocek groomed the other candidate, who had less experience and seniority, for months, yet was still chosen over the plaintiff, the suit states. Epirus terminated Schamel on Nov. 10, falsely stating that he had resigned, the suit alleges.
``The true reasons for plaintiff's termination were discrimination and retaliation based on plaintiff's military service obligations and his disability,'' according to the suit, which further states the firing has left the plaintiff with ``extreme emotional distress.''