Justice Department Announces Settlement Agreement with Everett, Wash., Battery Company to Protect Employment Rights of Returning Military Reservist
WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a settlement with All Battery Sales and Service (ABS) of Everett, Wash., to resolve a lawsuit it filed on behalf of Curtis Kirk, a U.S. Army reservist. The lawsuit alleged that the company violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) by failing to properly reemploy Kirk in September 2010, after he returned from military service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The lawsuit also alleged that the defendant unlawfully demoted and then terminated Kirk’s employment without proper cause. If approved by the court, the settlement would resolve the allegations that the defendant violated the reemployment rights of Kirk.
ABS is a wholesaler, distributor and retailer of battery products, parts and services. According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the defendant violated USERRA by not properly reemploying Kirk in a position as a front counter representative, or in a position with comparable seniority, status and pay. The defendant reemployed Kirk in a lower status position than the one he held when he left for active duty service, with fewer guaranteed working hours, a less lucrative commission and bonus structure and fewer opportunities for promotion. ABS later demoted Kirk further and terminated his employment without cause, also in violation of USERRA.
Under the terms of the settlement, ABS must pay Kirk $37,500 to compensate him for lost or reduced wages and benefits. Among other things, the settlement also requires the defendant to provide training to ABS’ high-level officials and human resources staff on the USERRA rights and obligations of employers and covered employees.
“Employers have a legal obligation to ensure service members get their jobs back when they return from military duty as required by law,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the rights of those who, through their courage and sacrifice, secure the rights of all Americans.”
“Just as our dedicated men and women of the military protect our freedoms overseas, we must protect their interests here at home,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “These soldiers have made many sacrifices, and the loss of a career or the job they are entitled to when they return home, cannot be allowed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to enforcing the laws that protect the rights of those brave men and women who serve our country proudly.”
Subject to certain conditions, USERRA requires employers to promptly reemploy returning service members in the positions they would have held had their employment been not interrupted by military service or in a position of like seniority, status and pay. In addition, any individual with Kirk’s length of absence for military service who is reemployed cannot be terminated, within one year after the date of full and proper reemployment except for just cause.
The case was litigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Diaz in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, in collaboration with Andrew Braniff, USERRA/USAO Program Coordinator, in the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.
The Justice Department’s 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’s websites at www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp and www.servicemembers.gov, as well as on the Labor Department’s website at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.