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Justice sues state agency for delay in soldier hire

MONTGOMERY — The federal government said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that a state agency broke the law when it failed to promptly rehire a soldier after he returned from Iraq.

The complaint filed by the U.S. Justice Department in Montgomery said the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation violated a federal law when it did not immediately rehire Roy Hamilton when he returned home from duty in April 2005.

According to the lawsuit, Hamilton was a medical assistant at Tarwater Developmental Center in Wetumpka when his National Guard unit in Prattville was deployed to Iraq in January 2004. The mental health department closed Tarwater while Hamilton was deployed.

The lawsuit said when Hamilton returned after being activated for more than a year, he was initially told the department had no record of his employment and that he continued to apply for openings until he was rehired in 2007.

Mental Health spokesman John Zeigler said in a release that the department had been working with the Justice Department to resolve the issue.

“We honor our men and women in the armed forces,” Zeigler said.

The lawsuit asks that the department be ordered to pay Hamilton for lost pay and benefits.