Justice Department and Department of Labor Sign Memorandum of Understanding to Protect the Employment Rights of Servicemembers and Veterans
The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) today signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to enshrine the collaboration between the agencies to protect the employment rights provided to servicemembers by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). The Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Justice seek to enhance the cooperative efforts of the two agencies in the investigation, litigation and resolution of employment and reemployment related claims brought by our nations servicemembers and veterans under USERRA.
The new MOU between DOL and Department of Justice is the first between the two agencies since 2004. It updates investigative and referral protocols and procedures, updates information sharing protocols and procedures, and if preliminary investigation of a charge reveals that immediate action is needed to prevent further harm, permits VETS to expedite the referral of a USERRA claim. In those cases, VETS will provide the Department of Justice with the investigative file and preliminary determination and the Department of Justice and VETS will work collaboratively to obtain a prompt and fair resolution of the complaint.
“Servicemembers and veterans have made great sacrifices to guarantee the freedoms and liberties that all Americans enjoy,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “They are guaranteed the right to civilian employment free from discrimination based on their military service and prompt reemployment following their military deployments. Through our strong partnership with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service we will continue to identify USERRA claims, prosecute employers who violate the law, seek relief for victims and fight to eliminate discrimination based on military service from the workplace.”
“The Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service has worked collaboratively with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division for a long time to protect service members’ and veterans’ employment and reemployment rights under USERRA,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary James Rodriguez for Policy for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. “This Memorandum of Understanding further cements our long-standing relationship with the Department of Justice to ensure that service members, veterans and employers fully understand their respective rights and obligations under the law. Together, we will continue to act swiftly if and when those rights are compromised to make them whole.”
USERRA entitles servicemembers to return to their civilian employment upon completion of their military service with the seniority, status and rate of pay that they would have obtained had they remained continuously employed by their civilian employer. USERRA also prohibits discrimination based on present, past and future military service. The Attorney General has authority to bring lawsuits against private, state and local government employers for violations of USERRA only upon receiving complaint referrals from VETS. Prior to referral, VETS investigates and attempts to resolve servicemember complaints. If the Attorney General is reasonably satisfied that the servicemember is entitled to relief, the Attorney General may commence an action in federal court on behalf of the servicemember. Since the Civil Rights Division assumed USERRA enforcement authority in 2004, it has filed 105 lawsuits and favorably resolved 193 complaints through consent decrees or private settlements.
The Department of Justice gives high priority to the enforcement of servicemembers’ rights under USERRA. The MOU and additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s websites at www.justice.gov/crt-military/employment-rights-userra and www.justice.gov/servicemembers as well as on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) website at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra.