Justice Department Files Suit Against Pima Community College for Violating the Employment Rights of an Arizona Army National Guardsman
The Department of Justice announced today the filing of a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona against Pima Community College (PCC) in Tucson, Arizona, for violating the employment rights of Army National Guardsman Timothy Stoner under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
The department’s complaint alleges that Pima Community College violated USERRA by failing to promote Stoner to the position of police corporal in 2010 and again in 2013. USERRA prohibits employment discrimination based on a service member’s past, current or future military status, service or obligation. Stoner, a PCC police officer, is a veteran of active duty military deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is currently a Sergeant First Class in the Army National Guard with 21 years of total military service, including three years on active duty.
According to the department’s complaint, PCC created the supervisory position of police corporal in 2010. Prior to that position being created, Stoner effectively performed his assigned duties as a lead police officer, an assignment that was replaced by the creation of the police corporal position. In 2010 and 2013, Stoner applied for promotion to police corporal, but both times he was not selected. The lawsuit alleges that, in each of the two years, Stoner’s military service was a motivating factor in PCC’s decision to deny him promotion to police corporal. According to the lawsuit, for both promotions, one of the two PCC officials who made the decision not to select Stoner exhibited anti-military bias against Stoner that was directly related to his military obligations. According to the suit, PCC conducted an investigation of Stoner’s internal complaint that his denial of promotion in 2013 was the result of anti-military bias by PCC selecting officials, and the college found that his complaint was substantiated. As a result, the PCC investigator recommended that remedial action be taken, including placing Stoner in an acting corporal position.
The department’s lawsuit seeks remedial relief for Stoner for the USERRA violations in 2013, as well as an earlier violation of the statute in 2010. The suit also alleges that PCC’s demonstration of anti-military bias was willful and warrants the award of liquidated damages to Stoner, as well as compensation for his loss of earnings and other benefits of employment.
“Employers have a legal obligation to respect and honor the rights of our uniformed service members to be fairly considered for promotions and other employment opportunities and not to subject them to unlawful discrimination because of their service in defense of our country,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division.
Stoner initially filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which investigated this matter and, after resolution failed, referred it to the Justice Department. The Department’s Civil Rights Division, through its Employment Litigation Section, then filed suit on Stoner’s behalf. The Civil Rights Division has given a high priority to the enforcement of service members’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s Web sites at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp and http://www.servicemembers.gov, as well as on the Labor Department’s website at http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.