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Appeals court reinstates man’s claim against paper

The state Court of Appeals has reinstated a termination claim filed by a man who has since returned to the company he says fired him.

Spokesman-Review employee Donald D. Reichert claims the company fired him. The lawsuit was originally dismissed by a judge. However, the appellate court concluded Reichert did not have an opportunity to properly defend himself when the company requested the case be dismissed.

Cowles Publishing Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review, has denied the claim filed by Reichert.

“The trial court agreed his claim had no merit,” said Spokesman-Review attorney Duane Swinton. “Now we just get ready to prepare for trial.”

Said the appellate court: “Cowles claims that Reichert’s personnel file and other internal records do not support that he was terminated. However, the case should proceed to trial so that the opponent may be allowed to disprove self-serving facts by cross examination.”

Reichert retired as a journeyman pressman in 1999 after 37 years of service. Under his union’s collective bargaining agreement with Cowles Publishing, the company was required to maintain a list of retired journeymen who wanted fill-in work for the company, say court records.

Reichert registered, and he was called from the list as needed. A person’s name is removed from the board if the retiree requests it or is fired, according to records.

On April 26, 2001, Reichert contacted Cowles’ human resources department to request a workers compensation form, which was based on a condition he developed in July 1997 when he was still employed full time, say court records.

Reichert was exposed to chemicals at work that caused a rash and swelling, which required immediate emergency treatment, say records.

According to Reichert’s claim, pressroom supervisor John Wilhelm became “extremely upset” about the claim request and told Reichert he was fired. Reichert went to the break room and told co-workers he’d been fired and “said his goodbyes,” say records.

Wilhelm denies ever telling Reichert he was fired, according to court records.

Reichert received a permanent partial disability for his claim in October 2001. On Feb. 28, 2002, Reichert filed a grievance with the union seeking reinstatement and back pay, say records. Though medically cleared for work, Reichert was not contacted by The Spokesman-Review after his name was reinstated to the substitute board. Reichert returned to work in July 2002 after he received medical clearance, records say.