WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today the filing of a complaint against the city of Brockton, Mass., and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for violating the rights of an Iraq war veteran, under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants violated Brockton Police Sergeant Brian Benvie’s USERRA rights when they failed to fully recognize the retroactive promotion to sergeant he earned after taking a make-up promotional exam upon his return from active duty military service in Iraq in 2007. Benvie’s score on the exam placed him at the top of the promotional list, and he was promoted to sergeant in July 2008. Benvie subsequently learned that another patrolman with a score lower than his had been promoted to sergeant in October 2007. After initially refusing, the city eventually retroactively adjusted Benvie’s promotion to the date he would have been promoted but for his military service. However, the defendants subsequently failed to give full effect to that promotion by denying Benvie the opportunity to take the lieutenants’ promotional exam.
Among other things, the suit seeks to provide Benvie with a makeup exam for the lieutenants’ promotional exam that he was not permitted to take; place Benvie on the appropriate eligibility list based on his score on the lieutenants’ exam; and, should his score merit it, retroactively promote Benvie to lieutenant with all of the rights, benefits and seniority that he would have enjoyed if he had been permitted to take the exam in October 2008 and had achieved the same score.
"No service member should miss out on opportunities for advancement in the civilian workplace because he or she answered a call to duty," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "We will use all of the tools at our disposal to protect the rights of those men and women who serve our country and make sacrifices to protect our rights."
U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz said, "Our service men and women make the ultimate sacrifice by serving our country. We cannot allow employers to disadvantage them based on their military service or military status."
The Justice and Labor Departments place a high priority on the enforcement of service members’ rights under USERRA. "Our two agencies work closely together to ensure that our service members are treated right when they return from service," said Ray Jefferson, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.
This lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint Benvie filed with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). After an investigation, DOL determined that Benvie’s complaint had merit and referred the matter to the Justice Department. The case is being handled by the Employment Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.