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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 26, 2010
Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against Fresno County, California to Protect Employment Rights of Navy Reservist

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement with the county of Fresno, Calif., on behalf of Navy Reservist Porotesano Faapouli. The complaint in this case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleged that the county violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by failing to promptly and properly reemploy Mr. Faapouli when he returned from active military duty with a service-related disability. The parties’ settlement is embodied in a consent decree which, if approved and entered by the court, will require Fresno County to pay Mr. Faapouli $57,000 in monetary relief, and will enjoin the county from committing future violations of USERRA.

USERRA, enacted to minimize disruption in the lives of returning service members by providing for their prompt reemployment following military service, recognizes the additional burdens faced by returning service members who suffer injuries in the line of duty. The law requires employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate service members who return with a service-related disability by locating a position for which the service member is qualified that is the nearest in seniority, status, and pay to the service member’s pre-service position.

Mr. Faapouli was a Senior Juvenile Correctional Officer in Fresno County’s Probation Department when he was called to active duty with the Navy in June 2004. During a training exercise, Mr. Faapouli suffered severe injuries requiring multiple surgeries and a long period of recuperation. Following his honorable discharge, Mr. Faapouli reported back to work for the County in September 2007. It took Fresno County over nine months to re-employ Mr. Faapouli, and the position in which the county re-employed him had a substantially lower status and pay than Mr. Faapouli’s pre-service position.

"The men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to serve our country deserve to know that they are not also risking losing their jobs when they return home," said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The department is committed to safeguarding the employment rights of our men and women in uniform."

The Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service investigated and attempted to resolve Mr. Faapouli’s USERRA complaint before referring it to the Department of Justice for litigation. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s Web site at www.servicemembers.gov and www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp.

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