WASHINGTON — The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit in federal court in West Virginia alleging that MasTec Advanced Technologies willfully violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by discriminating against Eugene C. Burress, a U.S. Army Reserve member, on the basis of his military service and by failing to offer Burress an appropriate reemployment position when he returned from military service.
Under USERRA, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee if the employee’s service or obligation for service in the uniformed services is a motivating factor in the employer’s action, unless the employer can prove that the action would have been taken in the absence of such service or obligation for service. In addition, and subject to certain limitations, USERRA requires that service members who leave their civilian jobs to serve in the military be reemployed promptly by their civilian employers in the same positions, or in positions comparable to the positions they would have held had their employment not been interrupted by military service.
The Justice Department’s complaint alleges that, in January 2008, Burress, then a field technician supervisor at MasTec’s Martinsburg, W.Va., office, was called to active duty in the U.S. Army, and that Burress notified his supervisor at MasTec of his upcoming military service. His supervisor previously had informed Burress that the site manager position at the office would be vacant soon and offered the position to Burress when it became available; Burress accepted. However, in October 2008, while Burress was engaged in military service, MasTec promoted another MasTec employee to site manager. Burress filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which investigated and attempted to resolve Burress’s USERRA complaint before referring it to the Justice Department. The Justice Department seeks back pay and other benefits Burress would have received had MasTec reemployed him as required by USERRA, as well as liquidated damages for MasTec’s willful violation of USERRA.
"The men and women who serve our country in uniform deserve to know that they will not face discrimination because of their sacrifice for our nation, and that they are not jeopardizing their civilian employment by serving in the military," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
This is the 22nd USERRA lawsuit filed during 2009 by the Civil Rights Division on behalf of service members. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department Web site: www.servicemembers.gov and www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp, as well as on the Labor Department’s Web site at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm