FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT FILES LAWSUIT TO DEFEND EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS OF SERVING NATIONAL GUARDSMEN
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Justice today announced the filing of a complaint in federal court in Pittsburgh alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney MaryBeth Buchanan, of the Western District of Pennsylvania, whose office filed a complaint alleging that Newark Paperboard Products violated USERRA when it refused to reemploy Michael E. McLaughlin-a major in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard-upon his return from military training.
Prior to his discharge, Maj. McLaughlin had been employed by Newark Paperboard as the plant manager of the company's Greenville plant. According to the complaint, Maj. McLaughlin is seeking reinstatement with the company, retroactive seniority, back pay, and liquidated damages.
“The filing of this lawsuit reflects the Department of Justice's steadfast commitment to ensuring that employers do not discriminate against the men and women who serve our country in the uniformed services,” said United States Attorney Buchanan. “We will continue to defend the rights granted to veterans and reservists under federal law.”
USERRA protects persons such as Maj. McLaughlin who perform active or reserve duty in this country's uniformed services. USERRA covers all public and private employers and prohibits an employer from denying a uniformed service member “employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment” if such person’s membership in the uniformed services is a motivating factor for the employer's action, “unless the employer can prove” that it would have taken the same action reasons other than a member's uniformed service.
This is the first USERRA complaint filed by the Department of Justice since Attorney General John Ashcroft transferred authority for enforcement of USERRA from the Civil Division to the Civil Rights Division on September 23, 2004. At that same time, the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor entered an agreement to expedite processing and prosecution of alleged violations of USERRA.
“We are honored to have been charged with this important responsibility,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Our uniformed men and women who go in harm's way to protect our American way of life deserve nothing less than the full and vigorous protection of their own employment rights.”
USERRA claims are investigated by the United States Department of Labor. If the Department of Labor cannot resolve the dispute, the claim is referred for prosecution to the Department of Justice upon the request of the service member. To learn more about USERRA go to http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.