Justice Department Reaches Settlement Agreement with Native American Community Health Center Resolving the USERRA Claims of United States Navy Reservist
The Department of Justice today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Native American Community Health Center (Native Health), a private corporation located in Phoenix, Arizona. The settlement agreement resolves allegations that Native Health violated the employment rights of Commander Mario L. Islas, a Navy Reservist, under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). USERRA safeguards the rights of uniformed servicemembers, including Reservists, to all benefits of employment following periods of absence due to military service obligations.
Commander Islas was a Family Practice Physician for Native Health before being promoted to Medical Director in September 2014. According to the complaint that Commander Islas filed with the Department of Labor (DOL), his military service and status as a Navy Reservist were motivating factors in Native Health’s decision not to renew his employment contract in 2016. The DOL complaint alleged that on Oct. 30, 2015, Commander Islas notified Native Health that he would be attending pre-mobilization training in December 2015 and January 2016; would be deployed overseas starting in March 2016; and would return to his position as Medical Director in early 2017. In a letter dated Jan. 25, 2016, Native Health notified Commander Islas that it would not be renewing his employment contract.
Under the terms of the settlement, Native Health has agreed to pay Commander Islas $25,000 in monetary relief for lost wages and benefits. In addition, Native Health will provide training on servicemembers’ rights to its managers, supervisors and administrative staff, and will review and revise, if necessary, its employee handbook to ensure that current and future employees are aware of their USERRA rights.
“Members of our Navy Reserve, like Commander Islas, make many sacrifices in defense of our country, including spending months or years away from their jobs and families,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that our servicemembers’ employment rights are protected while they are away defending our country.”
Commander Islas initially filed his complaint with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), which investigated the matter and attempted to reach a resolution between the parties. VETS referred the complaint to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section, after resolution efforts failed.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division gives high priority to the enforcement of servicemembers’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp and www.servicemembers.gov, as well as on the Labor Department’s website at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.