WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today reached a settlement on behalf of a National Guardsman whose employment was alleged to have been unlawfully terminated in violation of the Uniform Servicemembers Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The settlement, which was lodged today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, and which is subject to court approval, resolves allegations that Five Star Janitorial Supply of Leesville, La., violated the federal law protecting servicemembers from employment discrimination related to their military service.
The complaint and proposed consent decree were filed concurrently on behalf of the National Guardsman who alleged that he was fired by Five Star because he chose to attend a two-week military training course, part of his duties as a member of the National Guard. Men and women in the National Guard attend regular military training to remain ready to be called to active duty, if needed. USERRA is the federal statute that prohibits employers from firing or otherwise discriminating against employees who are also service members because of their military obligations.
“Men and women who volunteer to defend our freedom abroad deserve fair treatment at home,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We are pleased that Five Star chose to resolve this lawsuit and to respect the employment rights of its former employee.”
“Our nation is grateful to those who freely decide to be good citizens while also serving as soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen,” said Donald W. Washington, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. “My office remains fully dedicated to doing all that we can to protect their rights during and after a tour of military duty. Our obligation includes taking whatever steps are necessary to enforce federal laws like USERRA, which protect the rights of members of the military.”
In the proposed consent decree, Five Star agrees to pay the Guardsman his lost wages and interest, as well as other damages.
The Guardsman initiated his complaint with the Veterans Employment and Training Service of the U.S. Department of Labor. When the complaint was not able to be resolved, the complaint was referred to the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section. USERRA provides that any servicemember has the right to have the Justice Department review his or her complaint if the Department of Labor cannot convince an employer to voluntarily resolve that complaint. The Department of Justice may then provide free legal representation to the servicemember and file a lawsuit on his or her behalf.
In September 2004, the Attorney General delegated enforcement of USERRA to the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Since that time, the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division has vigilantly enforced the rights of servicemembers, filing 13 lawsuits and reaching 7 consent decrees since FY 2005.
To learn more about the Employment Litigation Section and the rights of servicemembers under USERRA, please visit www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp and www.servicemembers.gov.