WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against Mort’s Concrete Inc. and its owner, Kevin Mortimer, for allegedly violating the rights of Wisconsin Army National Guardsman Rocco Sylvester Jr. by failing to properly re-employ him when he returned from active military duty in Iraq. The lawsuit alleges that Mort’s Concrete and Mortimer violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which, subject to certain limitations, requires that individuals who leave their civilian jobs to serve in the military be promptly re-employed 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.
According to the department’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Madison, Wis., Mort’s Concrete and Mortimer violated USERRA by not reemploying Sylvester in his previous position as a full-time construction foreman upon his return from active duty. Instead, Mort’s Concrete and Mortimer re-employed Sylvester in a non-supervisory laborer position with significantly fewer work hours. The department seeks to recover the lost wages and benefits that Sylvester would have received had he been properly re-employed as a full-time foreman.
"Members of the military who put their lives on the line to protect our nation deserve to know they will not be penalized for their service and their bravery," said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department is committed to protecting the rights of those who, through their bravery and sacrifice, secure the freedom and civil rights of all Americans."
The Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service investigated and attempted to resolve Sylvester’s USERRA complaint before referring it to the Justice Department for litigation.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has given a high priority to the enforcement of service members’ rights under USERRA. This is the 20th USERRA lawsuit the Civil Rights Division has filed in 2009 on behalf of service members. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s Web sites at http://www.justice.gov/crt/emp and http://www.servicemembers.gov, as well as on the Labor Department’s Web site at http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.