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Military member challenges firing by think tank

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A U.S. Air Force reservist has filed a federal lawsuit against The James Madison Institute alleging he was fired because of his commitments to the military.

Christopher Ricardo accuses the conservative think tank of firing him after he advised the organization that he would be deployed for six months.

Logan Elizabeth Padgett, a spokeswoman for The James Madison Institute, told The News Service of Florida that the lawsuit was filed by a “disgruntled employee” and that it was a “meritless accusation.”

Ricardo has been a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve since September 2012 and holds the rank of staff sergeant. Before being dismissed from The James Madison Institute, Ricardo was the organization’s director of donor relations.

Filed in federal court last week, the lawsuit alleges that Ricardo in 2017 had an annual obligation to the Air Force Reserve that kept him from the office between July 27 and Aug. 11.

Ricardo returned to work Aug. 16 and, according to the suit, said he would be deployed for six months in 2019.

One week after he advised the organization of his military commitment, James Madison Institute officials “notified Ricardo that he was being terminated from employment,” the lawsuit said.

On Sept. 18, 2017, Ricardo received a letter from JMI advising him that his position had been eliminated.

“In fact, Ricardo’s position had not been eliminated,” his attorney, Tiffany Cruz, wrote, “but instead had been filled by another non-service connected employee.”

The lawsuit alleges the think tank violated the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Act of 1994.