Medal of Honor recipient sues former employer

SAN ANTONIO Tue Nov 29, 2011 10:29pm GMT

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - A U.S. Marine veteran who was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama is suing his former employer for allegedly mocking his military service and blocking his efforts to get a job with another company.

Sergeant Dakota Meyer worked briefly this year for BAE Systems OASYS, a defense contractor, providing advice and training on the development and sales of military-related products.

The lawsuit said that earlier this year, Meyer sent an e-mail to BAE Systems management objecting to a plan to sell advanced optic scopes to Pakistan. After the e-mail, it said, BAE manager Bobby McCreight "began berating and belittling Sergeant Meyer for ridiculous things."

"McCreight taunted Sergeant Meyer and, in reference to his heroism in battle and his nomination for the Congressional Medal of Honor, sarcastically and disdainfully ridiculed what he called Sergeant Meyer's 'pending star status,'" the suit said.

Meyer decided to leave BAE over the planned sale of optic scopes to Pakistan, and applied for an opening at AUSGAR, another defense contractor he had worked for before joining BAE, the lawsuit said.

But McCreight stepped in, the lawsuit said, telling AUSGAR's government contract manager that Meyer "was not performing BAE tasks assigned and that Meyer was mentally unstable, that Meyer had a problem related to drinking in a social setting."

"McCreight's statements were false, defamatory, and malicious," said the lawsuit, which added that AUSGAR declined to hire Meyer because of McCreight's claims.

In September, two months after the alleged taunting, President Obama hosted Meyer at the White House, presenting him with the nation's highest honor for valor and making him the first living Marine since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor.

Meyer, who was part of a U.S. team training Afghan security forces, saved 36 of his comrades' lives during a 2009 ambush in Kunar province, in eastern Afghanistan.

BAE Systems Vice President Brian Roehrkasse told Reuters the company was "incredibly grateful to Dakota Meyer for his valiant service and bravery above and beyond the call of duty."

"Although we strongly disagree with his claims, which we intend to vigorously defend through the appropriate legal process, we wish him success and good fortune in all his endeavors," Roehrkasse said.

Roehrkasse also said that the State Department, not BAE Systems, decides which defense-related products can be exported. He said that McCreight, who is also a decorated former Marine, remains employed by BAE Systems.

"BAE Systems is consistently recognized as one of the best companies for U.S. veterans to work for, and we count several thousand veterans among our employee ranks," Roehrkasse said.

The lawsuit, filed in state district court in San Antonio's Bexar County, accuses McCreight and BAE Systems Inc. of slander and interference with a contract. AUSGAR is not a defendant in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Cynthia Johnston)