Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against the Newark, New Jersey, Public Schools to Enforce the Employment Rights of Naval Reservist

The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., on behalf of U.S. Naval Reserve member George Lawton against the Newark Public Schools (NPS) alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).

The complaint alleges that Lawton, then a substitute teacher for the NPS since 1997, was offered a full-time teaching position in July 2005, but was called to active duty overseas in August 2005. Upon completing his active duty in August 2007, Lawton began contacting the NPS to seek reemployment temporarily in his substitute position and then later in his full time position. The complaint alleges the NPS did not promptly reemploy Lawton as a substitute or otherwise place him in the position that he would have been in had his employment not been interrupted by military service. The Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service investigated the matter, determined that Lawton’s claim had merit and, upon completion of conciliation efforts, referred the matter to the Justice Department.

"The Justice 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 civilian jobs to serve in the U.S. military be promptly reemployed by their civilian employers in the same or comparable positions as the one 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 held had they 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 thirteenth 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.

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