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Monday, May 21, 2018

Justice Department Reaches Settlement Agreement with the Puerto Rico Police Bureau on Behalf of Three Puerto Rico Army National Guard Members

The Department of Justice announced on Friday that it has reached a settlement agreement with the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB) that resolves allegations that the PRPB violated the employment rights of Puerto Rico Army National Guard Members Second Lieutenant Wilfredo Cruz Rivera, Sergeant Jose R. Bernal Martinez, and Sergeant Angel L. Martinez Toro under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA safeguards the rights of uniformed servicemembers to receive the full benefits of their employment, including promotional opportunities, following the fulfillment of their military service obligations. 

According to the allegations in the complaint, also filed on Friday by the Justice Department, the three servicemembers became eligible to take promotional examinations while they were on active duty.  The servicemembers took the missed exams upon their return from active duty and scored well enough to be promoted.  While the PRPB promoted the servicemembers, it failed to make the promotions effective on the date that the officers would have been promoted but for their military service.  Because the PRPB failed to provide the correct effective date for their promotions, the servicemembers lost wages and subsequent promotional opportunities. 

“The freedoms we enjoy are dependent on the selfless duties performed by members of our National Guard,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to fully protecting the rights of these men and women when they are deployed, so that they can return to their civilian jobs with the full benefits to which they are entitled, including promotional opportunities.”

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the PRPB has agreed to compensate the servicemembers for their lost wages, collectively about $25,000, and lost benefits; correct the effective dates of their promotions; and change its policy to ensure compliance with USERRA in the future.

This case stems from a referral by the United States Department of Labor (DOL), pursuant to an investigation by DOL’s Veterans’ Employment Training Service.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division gives high priority to the enforcement of servicemembers’ rights under USERRA. Established in 2015, the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative cooordinates with Justice Department components and federal and state agencies to build a comprehensive legal support and protection network focused on serving servicemembers, veterans, and their families.  Additional information about USERRA, and all of the civil rights statutes enforced by the Department of Justice on behalf of servicemembers, veterans and their families, 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.

Updated May 23, 2018