Justice Department Announces Settlement in Lawsuit Against Prince George County, Virginia, and the Virginia Retirement System to Enforce Servicemembers’ Employment Rights
The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement to resolve its complaint filed on behalf of Virginia Army National Guard Major Mark Gunn against Prince George County, Virginia, and the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) to enforce the employment and pension rights guaranteed Major Gunn under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). As part of the settlement Major Gunn will receive $9,756 in back pension pay, $3,000 in lost benefits, and adjusted pension payments going forward to incorporate two additional years of service time.
“The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing the laws that protect the civilian careers of the brave men and women who serve our country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Members of the Reserves are often called away from their civilian jobs to provide the security upon which our nation depends. They should not have to fear losing their jobs and, as here, their pension benefits, when they answer that call.”
“Members of our military Reserves who put their civilian careers and lives on hold to serve our country should not suffer adverse employment effects,” said U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to use all legal remedies to enforce the rights of servicemembers to the correct reemployment positions upon their return from honorably serving our nation.”
In its complaint, the United States alleged that the Prince George County Police Department (PGCPD) violated USERRA when it reemployed Major Gunn, a 14-year PGCPD veteran, as a patrol officer instead of a detective upon his return from active duty service in the Virginia Army National Guard. In violating the statute, PGCPD also denied Major Gunn his proper seniority and employment benefits and forced him to leave his employment with PGCPD and return to active duty in the Virginia Army National Guard. In its settlement with PGCPD and VRS, Major Gunn will receive his lost employment benefits, as well as all of the pension benefits from VRS that he would have accrued but for the alleged USERRA violation.
USERRA protects the rights of uniformed servicemembers to retain their civilian employment following absences due to military service obligations and provides that servicemembers shall not be discriminated against because of their military obligations. USERRA also requires employers to provide pension benefits when their employees are called to active duty. The Justice Department, including the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia 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 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.
This case stems from a referral by the Department of Labor, at Major Gunn’s request, after an investigation by that agency’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deirdre Brou, Lauren Oberheim and Robert McIntosh for the Eastern District of Virginia; and as a part of the Servicemember and Veterans’ Initiative within the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Trial Attorney Shan Shah in the Employment Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.