The Justice Department today announced that it has resolved a lawsuit alleging that Air Methods Corp. and LifeMed Alaska, LLC willfully violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by discriminating against and failing to reemploy Chief Warrant Officer Third Class Jonathon L. Goodwin of Wasilla, Alaska. The suit was filed in federal district court in Alaska.
Under USERRA, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against service members because of their membership in the military, past military service or future service obligations. In addition, and subject to certain limitations, USERRA requires that service members who leave their civilian jobs to serve in the military be reemployed promptly by their civilian employers in the positions they would have held if their employment had not been interrupted by military service or in positions of comparable seniority, pay and status.
Goodwin has been a member of the Army National Guard for 20 years, with honorable service as both a fixed-wing and helicopter pilot. The Justice Department’s complaint alleged that Goodwin was employed by Air Methods as a helicopter pilot when he was called upon for a nine month period of active duty, including a period of deployment to Iraq. According to the complaint, at the end of his deployment, Goodwin sought to be reemployed by Air Methods and assigned to a contract helicopter pilot position with LifeMed Alaska. The complaint alleged that LifeMed refused to accept Goodwin for the contract position due to LifeMed’s bias against recently returned service members as well as an unwillingness to accommodate Goodwin’s possible future military obligations. The complaint also alleged that Air Methods furthered LifeMed’s discriminatory action by refusing to assign Goodwin to the LifeMed contract and, consequently, failed to offer Goodwin proper reemployment.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Air Methods will immediately reinstate Mr. Goodwin, will assign him to the first available position on the LifeMed contract at Wolf Lake Base in Alaska, and will pay him an undisclosed sum of money in back pay and other damages.
“Military reservists provide an important and valuable service to our country, often at great personal sacrifice. No service member should be disadvantaged because he or she answered the call of duty,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to vigorously enforcing federal laws that protect the employment rights of our service members.”
“Here, in Alaska, we are committed to preserving and protecting the rights of our military and military reserve members. We honor and support their dedication and service to our community and our nation,” said Karen Loeffler, U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska.
The case stemmed from a referral by the Department of Labor following an investigation by the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service and was jointly litigated by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.
Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department website: www.servicemembers.gov and www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp , as well as on the Labor Department’s website at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm .