Washoe doctor sues tribe over firing
A lawsuit against the Washoe Tribe by a doctor who was dismissed after returning home from military deployment could set a precedent.
Army Reserve Lt. Col. Loren Simpson filed suit in U.S. District Court on Jan. 29 after he was fired from his job with the Washoe Tribal Health Center in 2016.
“I thought this was a battle worth standing up for and fighting,” Simpson said. “I want the Washoe Tribe to follow federal law, because they receive federal funding.”
While acknowledging the tribe’s sovereignty, Simpson, a Washoe himself, points out that it’s not entirely independent.
“When they receive funding for clinics and positions tied to agreeements they agree to follow public policy.”
He said that whatever the judge decides will set a precedent for tribes across the nation whose employees participate in the military.
“I’d like to see this law that applies to employers everywhere followed,” he said.
Simpson is working in Yerington for the South Lyon Medical Center & Yerington Paiute Tribe.
According to court documents, federally recognized tribes are not named specifically in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 which prohibits an agency from firing someone within 180 days of returning from military service.
Simpson worked for more than a decade as the Tribe’s chief medical officer from 2004 until July 2016.
Simpson was on the panel that interviewed for a new medical director, who was hired in 2015. He disagreed with the Tribe’s decision to hire the person.
Simpson is a 1983 Douglas High School graduate, had completed his fourth tour, a 90-day deployment to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, in May 2016.
On his first day back at work, he received a letter of termination from the Tribe.
As a doctor, Simpson is an at-will employee, and the Tribe can fire him without cause.
“I’ve always loved to work,” he said. “My dad ingrained that into me. I’ve never been written up or disciplined.”
After he was fired by the tribe, Simpson said he knew he had resources and filed with the Department of Labor. In August 2016 the department ruled in his favor.