FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, MARCH 29, 2005
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REACHES AGREEMENT WITH BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE OVER EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS FOR A NATIONAL GUARDSMAN
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced the signing of a consent decree, resolving a lawsuit against Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC (“Bridgestone”) filed to protect the rights of a national guardsman returning from active duty. As part of the agreement, Bridgestone has agreed to provide employment benefits to the returning member of the Army National Guard.
“Federal law makes clear that reserve soldiers called to active duty have a right to re-employment in comparable jobs with their former employer when they return to civilian life. These soldiers risk their lives to protect our basic liberties. Employers should not punish them for their service to our nation by denying them civilian employment and benefits,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to doing all it can to ensure that the rights of veterans guaranteed by law are protected when they return to the civilian workforce.”
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, alleged that Bridgestone violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”) by failing to advance the guardsman on its progressive pay schedule during a period of approximately 15 months while the guardsman was serving on active military duty. According to the government’s complaint, the guardsman joined the Army National Guard in August 2000. He was subsequently hired by Bridgestone in May 2002. The guardsman was then activated as a member of the Army National Guard under Operation Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom from December 2002 to March 2004. Upon his return to Bridgestone, the guardsman was paid at the same rate as when he left, rather than being advanced on the company’s progressive pay schedule.
The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) of the Labor Department referred the guardsman’s complaint to the Justice Department upon completion of its investigation. In the consent decree, tendered to the district court for approval and entry, Bridgestone has agreed to both advance the guardsman on its progressive pay schedule and pay him lost earnings, plus interest.
Assistant Attorney General Acosta noted that Bridgestone voluntarily cooperated with the investigation of the guardsman’s USERRA complaint and, while denying any wrongdoing, agreed to make the guardsman whole for his loss.
This is the third USERRA complaint filed by the Justice Department since the Civil Rights Division received enforcement authority for USERRA cases in September 2004. USERRA protects the re-employment rights of service members or veterans upon their return to civilian life from active duty. To learn more about USERRA, go to http:www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.