Department of Justice SealDepartment of Justice
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Fact Sheet: Department of Justice Efforts to Protect the Rights of Servicemembers and Veterans

"All Americans owe a debt of gratitude to our nation’s men and women in uniform for their unwavering commitment to keeping the United States safe and secure. The Civil Rights Division honors our servicemembers by ensuring that we guarantee the basic civil rights that they so willingly risk their lives to protect."

- Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division

 The Civil Rights Division enforces a number of laws that protect the rights of uniformed men and women, including the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which protects employment rights, and the Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA), which protects voting rights.

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act:

In fiscal year 2008, the Civil Rights Division filed 11 new USERRA suits and obtained settlements in 10 such cases.

Recent USERRA Cases:

 Dean v. Davita Laboratories, Inc. - On Oct. 29, 2008, the Justice Department reached a settlement resolving claims brought against Davita, a California-based provider of dialysis services, on behalf of Rebecca Dean arising from Davita’s refusal to promptly reemploy Dean in a position of like seniority, status and pay upon her return from active duty in the Air Force. The suit also alleged that Davita further violated USERRA by terminating Dean without cause within one year of her return from active duty. The terms of the settlement were not made public.

Marshall v. Frank - The Justice Department sued the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Hillsborough County, Fla., on behalf of Army Reservist Tracey Marshall alleging that the Clerk violated USERRA by failing to reinstate Marshall to her civilian employment position as supervisor of the Court Clerk II Section. The complaint also alleged that the Clerk violated USERRA by transferring Marshall from the Court’s Felony Department to its Traffic Department at a lower rate of pay because Marshall took action to enforce a protection afforded her under USERRA. On Aug. 20, 2008, the Clerk agreed to a settlement whereby Marshall would be paid $2500 and reinstated to a managerial position equivalent to her previous position.

Woodall v. American Airlines, Inc. - In the first class action lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice under USERRA, the Department sued American Airlines, the nation’s largest commercial air carrier, following a referral from the VETS. The suit alleged that American Airlines violated USERRA by prohibiting pilots from accruing vacation and sick leave benefits while on military leave to the same extent as pilots on comparable forms of non-military leave. On Aug. 1, 2008, the court approved an agreement DOJ reached with American Airlines that resolved this suit. Under the terms of the agreement, American Airlines agreed to pay 382 pilots who performed military service a total of $347,905.80 for the loss of vacation and sick leave benefits, and provide sick leave credits having an estimated value of $225,000.

Thornton v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. - On May 21, 2008, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida approved and entered a consent decree requiring Wal-Mart to pay Sean Thornton $12,000 in back wages. The decree resolved Thornton’s complaint that Wal-Mart violated USERRA in failing to properly reinstate him to his pre-service position as a cashier following his service in the U.S. Air Force. Thornton timely sought reemployment with Wal-Mart but was told that he would have to reapply for his cashier position because he was no longer listed as an employee.

Williams v. Gibson County, Tennessee - On May 21, 2008, the court approved the Justice Department’s agreement with Gibson County resolving Mary Williams’ complaint that the county violated USERRA by failing to reemploy and promote her upon her return from two years of service with the Army National Guard in Iraq. Upon her return from active duty in July 2006, Williams promptly informed the county that she wanted to return to her part-time emergency medical technician (EMT) position. The county did not reemploy her until four months later, nor did the county properly credit her for seniority for her time on active duty service. According to the terms of the consent decree, the county must promote Williams to a full-time EMT position, retroactive to the date she should have been promoted in 2006, and pay her $17,000 to compensate for lost wages and other monetary losses.

Macintire v. Pan-O-Gold Baking Company - The Justice Department sued on behalf of army reservist Jeremiah Macintire, alleging that Pan-O-Gold Baking Company terminated Macintire’s employment after he returned from weekend reserve duty. On April 14, 2008, the court approved a settlement agreement resolving Macintire’s USERRA claims. The terms of the agreement were not made public.

Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA):

UOCAVA protects active duty members of the U.S. uniformed services or merchant marine and their family members, and U.S. citizens residing outside the United States. The act also:

Recent UOCAVA Enforcement Efforts:

On Oct. 22, 2008, the Department announced a settlement agreement with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to remedy violations of UOCAVA. Through the Secretary of State, the Commonwealth is responsible for collecting and reporting the number of military voters and overseas citizens who are sent ballots, who return ballots, and who have the ballots successfully cast in each federal general election. Massachusetts has failed to fulfill this important legal obligation since UOCAVA was enacted in 2002. The settlement agreement requires the Secretary of State to implement procedures to facilitate the collection and reporting of data regarding absentee ballots transmitted, returned and cast by overseas citizens, including members of the armed forces casting absentee ballots.

On Oct. 10, 2008, the Department sued the State of Vermont for violations of UOCAVA. The lawsuit alleges that the State has failed to collect and the report information on the number of military voters and overseas citizens who are sent ballots, return them and have successfully cast ballots in each federal general election. The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vt., seeks a declaration that Vermont has previously violated the law, and seeks an injunction against any future noncompliance.