Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 22, 2009
Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against City of Chesapeake, Virginia, to Enforce the Employment Rights of Virginia Coast Guard Reservist

The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Va., on behalf of U.S. Coast Guard Reserve member Paul Sutton against the city of Chesapeake alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).

The complaint alleges that Sutton, a lieutenant in the Chesapeake Police Department (CPD), was denied reemployment in November 2007, after returning from active duty in the Coast Guard. Because the CPD denied Sutton’s timely request for reemployment, he extended his Coast Guard tour of duty until December 2009. Sutton filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service which investigated, determined the claim had merit and referred the matter to the Justice Department. In the suit, the Justice Department seeks reemployment for Sutton, as well as payment for his lost wages and benefits suffered by reason of Chesapeake’s failure or refusal to comply with USERRA.

"The Department is committed to vigorously enforcing federal laws that protect the employment rights of our service members," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Cases like this, on behalf of a service member who was not promptly reemployed following military service, further reinforce that commitment."

Subject to certain limitations, USERRA requires that individuals who leave their jobs to serve in the U.S. military be promptly reemployed by their civilian employers in the same positions, or in comparable positions, as the positions that they would have held had they not left to serve in the military. USERRA also requires that civilian employers reemploy returning service members in positions of like pay, status and benefits to the positions the service members would have had if they had been continuously employed by their civilian employers.

The Civil Rights Division has given a high priority to the enforcement of service members’ rights under USERRA. This is the eleventh USERRA suit the Civil Rights Division has filed this year on behalf of service members. Please visit http://www.servicemembers.gov and http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp for more information.

09-505