Sunrise Reservist Denied Rightful Post, Labor Lawyer Claims

Last week, the Pulp reported on longtime City of Sunrise employee Cynthia Bagnall, who claims that her bosses harassed her for following labor laws -- even going so far as to reprimand her for using the ladies room during work hours.

The Pulp had the chance Monday to speak with Cynthia Bagnall's lawyer, Col. George C Aucoin. His accounting of events -- which he plans to present in federal court next week -- is even more troubling than the details in the legal filing, as it suggests intentional unwillingness to recognize a military family's rights.

Bagnall, who has worked for Sunrise as a secretary for 21 years, says her bosses started mistreating her when she complied with a Department of Labor investigation. Her husband, Forrest Gregory Bagnall, is an engineer with the Army Reserve. He says he was unfairly treated for taking military leave. 

Aucoin says that problems started for the Bagnalls in the mid-2000s. Forrest Bagnall, then an engineer for Sunrise's public works department, was deployed to the Pentagon.

Federal law requires that employees returning from military leave get the same position they would have had if they had not left for active duty.

So, Aucoin says, Forrest Bagnall should have been returned to his predeployment responsibility level and pay grade when he returned to Sunrise.

Also, he should have been considered for the public works director position because of his experience and tenure with the city, Aucoin claims.

When Forrest Bagnall returned from duty, however, his responsibilities were slashed by two-thirds, so he was in charge only of fleet management.

Sunrise then started to put pressure on Bagnall's wife, Aucoin says, immediately after he complained in 2008.

When Forrest Bagnall then decided in 2009 to go forward with his complaint against Sunrise and listed his wife as a witness, "the City notified Mrs. Bagnall that her work and office location and even her working hours would change -- all over Mrs. Bagnall's verbal and written objections."

Cynthia Bagnall says that city higher-ups even went so far as to stuff her in a tiny office where she could barely work, in addition to giving her later hours and unclear duties.

The coup de grace: "Mrs. Bagnall then began to be reprimanded for innocuous fabricated 'infractions' at work for which there exist no published policy guidance... includ[ing] being reprimanded for her use of the ladies restroom during working hours."

Before this incident, Aucoin says, Cynthia Bagnall was considered an exemplary employee.

"Nobody that she worked for had any problem with how she did her job," he says. "Then, they did everything they could to make her quit."

Cynthia Bagnall still works for Sunrise.

"But she's working at her position far beneath her capacity," he says.

Aucoin says that he and the Bagnalls have tried repeatedly to settle with Sunrise out of court but that the city refuses to reinstate them to their proper positions.

The Aucoins have chosen to speak about the case through their lawyer, Aucoin.

The City of Sunrise has not returned repeated calls for comment.

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Victoria Bekiempis