WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today announced it has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, Calif., against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), alleging that the CDCR failed to promptly reemploy U.S. Air Force reservist Dany Felix in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
USERRA was enacted to protect service members from being disadvantaged in their civilian careers due to serving in the uniformed services. Subject to certain limitations, USERRA requires employers to reemploy service members who have been injured while on active duty by accommodating those service members in a position they are qualified to perform and that approximates their pre-service position in seniority, pay and status.
The complaint alleges that in March 2003, Felix, employed as a CDCR medical technical assistant, was ordered to active duty together with his Air Force Reserve unit. Felix aggravated a pre-existing back injury and also sustained a new back injury while on active duty, resulting in his being honorably discharged in August 2006. Felix sought reemployment with the CDCR shortly before and for several months after his discharge.
The CDCR initially told Felix that it would not reemploy him as a medical technical assistant because of his physical injuries and, despite Felix’s requests, did not offer him reemployment in any position. The complaint alleges that when the CDCR finally offered to reemploy Felix between February and April 2007 in alternative positions, those positions paid substantially less or would have required significantly longer commutes, than his prior medical technical assistant position. According to the complaint, the CDCR failed to offer Felix suitable reemployment until May 2007 – nine months after his honorable discharge, and only after Felix had told the CDCR that he had found a job with another employer.
"Service members injured during active duty should not be penalized with the loss of their civilian jobs," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit was filed after receiving Felix’s complaint from the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, upon completion of its investigation.
The Civil Rights Division 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 sites: www.servicemembers.gov and www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp.