CONCORD — A former University of New Hampshire professor whose contract was not renewed last year claims he has been denied employment at the university because of his prior military service, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
In January 2018, the contracts of 18 lecturers in the UNH College of Liberal Arts were not renewed, including that of English lecturer Nathan Webster, of Stratham, a veteran who served during Operation Desert Storm and then worked as a photojournalist in Iraq, who filed the lawsuit on Sept. 30.
He was on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1987 to 1992 and served in the U.S. Army Reserve and New Hampshire National Guard from 1992 to 1999, according to the lawsuit.
After his contract was not renewed, Webster, 51, applied for other positions for which he was qualified, but was denied employment, according to the lawsuit.
“An interviewer told Mr. Webster that he didn’t think that Mr. Webster would fit in to an academic culture of ‘safety’ given Mr. Webster’s military background,” the lawsuit reads.
“Another interviewer, for a publication editor position, queried whether Mr. Webster could function autonomously in the workplace, given that he had previously worked in a ‘top down chain of command.’”
Webster worked as an instructor for the English Department for nine years until his contract was not renewed.
UNH is aware of the lawsuit, according to Erika Mantz, the school’s executive director of media relations.
“We dispute his claims and intend to vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit,” she wrote in a statement.
Webster filed a Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act grievance after appealing to Heidi Bostic, a dean of UNH’s College of Liberal Arts, to have his contract renewed.
“Dean Bostic instantly responded negatively to Mr. Webster’s suggestions that his military service benefitted UNH and its students. She asked, rhetorically to the effect of ‘do you [actually] think you are entitled [as a veteran] to a job?’” the lawsuit reads.
Webster also filed an age discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and claims he was denied an interview for a journalism lecturer position at the school.
He is seeking a jury trial, employment after the trial, and damages, according to the suit.