A former Bemidji State University professor can have his case heard after all as the Minnesota State Court of Appeals on Monday reinstated his claim against the school. Martin Breaker sued the school after it did not give him his job back when he returned from military service in 2008.
Breaker had taught in the business department from 1997 and 2005 when the U.S. Army Reserve called and he was deployed. Three years later, Breaker informed the school that he planned to return to work but was told that his position had been eliminated. He was offered a temporary teaching position at a lower pay rate that came with lower seniority and less opportunity.
Breaker had sued Bemidji State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University System and several individual defendants in state court in 2011 citing violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The act requires state employers to rehire employees upon completion of military service. The right to be reemployed lasts for five years.
Breaker's complaint alleged USERRA violations, but he did not sue under the law. His case was thrown out in district court after the defendants said he did not plead a legally sufficient claim. The State Court of Appeals upheld the decision.
At the time of Breaker's first suit in 2011, when a state was sued by its own citizens for damages under a federal law, sovereign immunity barred any damages. But that changed in 2012 with a new state law eliminating that immunity. Breaker refiled his suit, but a District Court again dismissed it.
But on Monday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Breaker could file his lawsuit again if he chooses.