WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a complaint and consent decree in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire concerning allegations that the Town of Stewartstown, N.H., violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) by denying Brendon McKeage, a New Hampshire National Guardsman, reemployment following a tour of duty in Iraq. The Justice Department filed the complaint on Friday, March 16, 2007. In addition to the complaint, the Justice Department today filed a proposed consent decree, which the Town has agreed to, that resolves the allegations in the complaint.
USERRA obligates employers to reemploy returning service members in the same or a comparable position following return from military leave. USERRA also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of their military obligations. McKeage’s complaint alleges that Stewartstown violated USERRA by failing to reemploy him in his prior position, or an appropriate alternative position, upon his return from active duty. Under the proposed consent decree, which must be approved by the District Court, the Town of Stewartstown has agreed to pay the plaintiff $25,000 in lost wages to resolve his claims.
“Those who defend our freedom abroad should receive fair treatment when they return home,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Employers must abide by the terms of federal law in not discriminating against servicemembers for their military duties. We are pleased that the Town of Stewartstown has chosen to resolve this lawsuit, consistent with the requirements of USERRA.”
McKeage asked the Veterans Employment and Training Service of the U.S. Department of Labor to refer his USERRA complaint to the Justice Department after it was unable to resolve the complaint with Stewartstown. USERRA provides that a servicemember has the right to have the Department of Justice review his or her USERRA complaint if the Department of Labor cannot convince an employer to voluntarily resolve that complaint.
If the Department of Justice believes that the complaint has merit, it may provide free legal representation to the servicemember and file a lawsuit on his or her behalf. Since September 2004, the Department of Justice has filed 14 complaints on behalf of servicemembers who were denied their rights under USERRA.
The lawsuit was filed by the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section. To learn more about the Employment Litigation Section and USERRA, please visit www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp and www.servicemembers.gov.