Court Awards Back Pay to Returning Veteran and Injunctive Relief Against Alabama Department of Mental Health
WASHINGTON – A U.S. District Court in Montgomery, Ala., granted judgment in favor of the United States yesterday in a lawsuit brought to enforce the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) against the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH).
After a trial in June, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller held that ADMH violated USERRA when it failed to promptly reemploy Roy Hamilton when he returned from active duty military service in Iraq. The court awarded Hamilton $23,350.77 in back pay and retirement contributions; $2,997.96 in annual and sick leave; and restoration of his continuous service date to his original hire date, July 13, 1987. The court also found that the United States is entitled to injunctive relief to ensure ADMH’s future compliance with USERRA. The injunctive relief includes amendments to ADMH’s policies and procedures and mandatory training for all ADMH managers and personnel officials.
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. armed forces be timely reemployed by their civilian employers in the same or similar position that they would have held had they not left to serve in the military.
The complaint alleged that ADMH violated USERRA by failing or refusing to promptly reemploy Hamilton upon his return from military service. Hamilton was deployed to Iraq in July 2004. Upon his completion of active duty in April 2005, Hamilton received an honorable discharge and contacted ADMH to seek immediate reemployment. ADMH did not offer Hamilton reemployment, nor did ADMH contact Hamilton about reemployment. Hamilton was rehired as a new employee in August 2007.
“Members of our armed forces deserve the comfort of knowing that they will not be sacrificing their civilian careers when they make the choice to serve our nation in the military,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Mr. Hamilton will be made whole, and the Department of Justice will continue to seek relief on behalf of other servicemembers for violations of USERRA.”
The Department of Justice brought this case after a referral from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). DOL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service investigated Mr. Hamilton’s compliant, found that it had merit, and attempted to resolve it before referring it for litigation by the Department of Justice.