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Department of Justice
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against Ecolab Inc. to Enforce Employment Rights of Michigan U.S. Army Veteran

WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into a consent decree with Ecolab Inc. (Ecolab) that will resolve the Department’s complaint, which was filed today, that Ecolab failed to reemploy Michigan veteran Stephen Alasin in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, as amended (USERRA). The consent decree was approved by the court today as well.

USERRA was enacted in 1994 to protect service members from being disadvantaged in their civilian careers due to serving in the uniformed services. Subject to certain limitations, USERRA requires that individuals who leave their jobs to serve in the U.S. military be timely reemployed by their civilian employers in the same position, or a comparable position, to the position that they would have held had they not left to serve in the military.

The Department’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleges that Ecolab violated USERRA by failing or refusing to promptly reemploy Alasin upon his return from military service. Alasin enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2003 and served for almost three years, including a tour of duty in Iraq. Alasin received several medals for his military service. Upon receiving an honorable discharge in February 2006, Alasin contacted Ecolab to seek reemployment as a senior service specialist but, the complaint alleges, Ecolab failed or refused to reemploy Alasin. Under the terms of the consent decree Ecolab is required to pay Alasin $118,000 and prohibits Ecolab from retaliating against any persons who exercise their rights under USERRA.

"The Department is committed to vigorously enforcing federal laws that protect the employment rights of our service members, and cases like this, on behalf of a service member who was not reemployed following military service, further reinforce that commitment," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Department commends Ecolab for working cooperatively to resolve this matter and for its prompt corrective action to ensure prospective compliance with its obligations under USERRA."

"Along with the rights and liberties all Americans enjoy, our laws also impose some duties and responsibilities, including to honor the sacrifices of American soldiers returning home by allowing them to return to their jobs," said Acting U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Ecolab has advised the Justice Department that the company considered this an isolated and regrettable incident, and that Ecolab already has made changes to its application process to ensure that similar incidents will not occur in the future.

The Department filed its suit against Ecolab after receiving Alasin’s complaint from the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service of the Department of Labor, upon completion of its investigation and settlement efforts.

The Civil Rights Division has given a high priority to the enforcement of service members’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department Web site at: http://www.servicemembers.gov and www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp.

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