Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, January 12, 2009
Justice Department Files Suit Against Paint Company to Defend Employment Rights of N.J. Army National Guardsman

WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice today filed a lawsuit on behalf of James O. Alston, a member of the New Jersey Army National Guard, against Hawthorne Paint Co. Inc., alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee because of the employee’s past, current or future military obligations.

The Department’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., alleges that the company violated USERRA by terminating Mr. Alston from his position as a supervisor based on his military service in Operation Iraqi Freedom from June 2004 to June 2006, and by discharging him without cause, a week from his date of reinstatement.

"No one should lose their civilian job for serving our country as a member of the military," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Our servicemen and women sacrifice for our nation, and particularly in this time of conflict, the Justice Department is committed to fully protecting the employment rights of our men and women in uniform."

The Department of Justice’s lawsuit was filed after the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service of the Department of Labor referred a complaint filed by Mr. Alston under USERRA to the Department of Justice upon completion of its investigation and unsuccessful settlement efforts.

The Department’s Civil Rights Division places a high priority on the enforcement of service members’ rights under USERRA. Last year, the Division filed 12 USERRA suits, the largest number since receiving enforcement authority in September 2004.

Additional information about USERRA is available at www.servicemembers.gov, and on the Department of Labor Web site at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.

09-027