WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mary V. Williams, a staff sergeant in the Tennessee Army National Guard, against Gibson County, Tenn., alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). Also filed with the complaint is a consent decree reached by the Justice Department and the County.
USERRA was enacted in 1994 to protect service members from being disadvantaged in their civilian careers due to serving in the uniformed services. Among other things, USERRA requires that employers promptly reemploy service members and provide the service member with “seniority and other rights and benefits determined by seniority that the person had on the date of commencement of service in the uniformed services plus the additional seniority and benefits that such person would have attained if the person had remained continuously employed.”
The Department’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Memphis, Tenn., alleges that the county violated USERRA by failing or refusing to promptly reemploy Sergeant Williams in her job as a part-time emergency medical technician (EMT) upon her return from military service, and by failing or refusing to promote Ms. Williams to a full-time EMT position, her the seniority, status and compensation she would have received but for her service in the military.
Sergeant Williams was deployed to Iraq in July 2004. Upon her completion of active duty in July 2006, Sergeant Williams received an honorable discharge and contacted the county to seek immediate reemployment in her EMT position. It was not until October 2006 that the county reemployed Sergeant Williams. However, according to the Bush Administration complaint, county reemployed her only as a part-time EMT. Even though the County at that time had filled a full-time EMT position with a part-time EMT with less seniority than Sergeant Williams.
The consent decree, if approved by the court, requires Gibson County to promote Sergeant Williams to a full-time EMT position, at the level of seniority, status and compensation that she would have enjoyed had she not served on active duty in Iraq, and to provide Sergeant Williams with a monetary award of $17,000.
“I am pleased that we were able to work with Gibson County to arrive at a resolution that restores Ms. Williams’ employment rights with the county and compensates her for her losses,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to vigorously enforcing federal laws that protect the employment rights of men and women who are serving in our military forces.”
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has given a high priority to the enforcement of service members’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department Web site at www.servicemembers.gov and www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp.