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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Justice Department Announces Settlement with Ashley Home Store Over Discrimination Claims of Indiana Army National Guardsman

On Tuesday, the Justice Department resolved a lawsuit in which an Indiana Army National Guardsman, Captain Christopher Robbins, alleged that The Dufresne Spencer Group, a limited liability corporation doing business as Ashley Home Store, violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). Captain Robbins specifically alleged that The Dufresne Spencer Group violated USERRA when it failed to promptly offer him re-employment after a period of active duty military service.

“Federal law protects the right of servicemembers like Captain Robbins to resume their jobs when they return home,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “It guarantees that members of the armed forces are not forced to sacrifice their continued employment on top of the sacrifices they have already made in order to fulfill their military obligations.”

“The Justice Department expects employers to fully comply with their reemployment obligations under the law,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Childress of the Southern District of Indiana. “Where employers fall short in doing so, we will aggressively vindicate the reemployment rights of servicemembers.”

As alleged in his complaint, in 2014, Captain Robbins began working as a salesman at an Ashley Home Store in Greenwood, Indiana. During the summer of 2017, he provided notice to the company that his military service obligations with the National Guard required him to attend mandatory, out-of-state military training exercises with his unit. Robbins alleged that at the completion of his training obligation, he promptly sought re-employment, but was fired by Ashley Home Store instead. Under the terms of the settlement, the company has agreed to pay Robbins $6,000 in damages. The company will also offer comprehensive training to its supervisors and HR officials on USERRA and post a notice at the store advising employees of their rights under USERRA and the company’s intent to comply with the law.

This lawsuit stems from a complaint that Captain Robbins filed with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which, after an investigation by its Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, referred the matter to the Justice Department.        

The Justice Department gives high priority to the enforcement of servicemembers’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s websites at https://www.justice.gov/crt/employment-litigation-section and https://www.justice.gov/servicemembers, as well as on the DOL’s website at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/vets/programs/userra.

This case is being handled by Senior Trial Attorney Christopher Woolley of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Preston of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana.

Press Release Number: 
Updated May 27, 2021