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Attorney: Gold Cross discriminated against Iraq war vet from Superior

Chad Lisdahl

A Louisiana attorney who bills himself as "the Warrior's Employment Rights Lawyer" told a judge Monday that Gold Cross Ambulance and one of its supervisors discriminated against a paramedic who returned to his job after serving three tours of combat with the Marines in Iraq.

The trial is being held this week in U.S. District Court in Duluth after Chad Lisdahl, 30, of Superior filed a lawsuit two years ago against Mayo Medical Transport and its Gold Cross supervisor David B. Johnson.

Lisdahl claims he was demoted and harassed after returning to Gold Cross after a four-year leave of absence to serve in the Marines. The suit asks for back pay, attorneys' fees, differential pay, vacation and retirement credits and an order for Mayo to drop its requirement that Lisdahl retake the national registered paramedics exam.

Lisdahl is represented by Metairie, La., attorney George Aucoin, a Marine Corps colonel with more than 29 years of active and reserve service who specializes in representing military members in job discrimination cases.

Aucoin might be a colonel, but he was outranked in the courtroom by U.S. Magistrate Judge Raymond Erickson, who lost patience with Aucoin on more than one occasion.

Erickson told Aucoin to not repeatedly ask the same questions that already had been answered by the witness. Erickson also told Aucoin not to have his witnesses read statements that the court was already familiar with.

Aucoin claims that Gold Cross violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. He said the alleged discrimination was not obvious and evidence of it is circumstantial, but his client was a victim of it -- mainly from Johnson, who he attempted to portray as an angry man who doesn't respect the military.

Johnson admitted under questioning by Aucoin that he initially didn't think Gold Cross had to rehire Lisdahl. He said he wanted to bring Lisdahl back as a trainee, not as his previous rank of assistant captain as the law required.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Gregory Griffiths, of Rochester, Minn., told the court that there is no question that Lisdahl was an "outstanding paramedic,'' but four years had elapsed since he last served in that role and Gold Cross had an orientation process that the plaintiff had to comply with as a matter of public safety. That process included Lisdahl having to re-certify as a nationally registered paramedic.

In his questioning, Aucoin suggested that Johnson publicly chastised and attempted to humiliate Lisdahl and challenged him to respond to his goading. Johnson said he remembered a "heated discussion'' and a "spirited debate'' with Lisdahl, but denied any less than professional conduct in his dealings with the plaintiff.

The trial is expected to last most of the week. When all of the evidence has been presented, Erickson will decide the case.