Justice Department Reaches Settlement Agreement with Syncom Space Services, LLC Resolving USERRA Claims of Louisiana Air National Guardsman
The Department of Justice today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Syncom Space Services, LLC (S3) that resolves allegations that S3 violated the employment rights of Louisiana Air National Guardsman, Jason Cooper, under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA safeguards the rights of uniformed servicemembers, including National Guardsmen, to all benefits of employment following periods of absence due to military service obligations. The benefits of employment protected by USERRA include promotional opportunities.
Cooper worked as a Predictive Testing and Inspection (PT&I) Specialist for S3 at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi. On June 13, 2016, he was deployed on active duty with the Air National Guard. During his deployment, Cooper applied for a vacant PT&I Shoplead position. Although Cooper had the most PT&I experience of all applicants, S3 failed to promote him to the position upon his return from deployment. As a result of the employer’s failure to promote him to a position that he was qualified for, because of his military service, Cooper lost promotional income and benefits.
“Our nation’s national guard and reservists should not have to worry about losing opportunities for promotion or increased benefits in their civilian jobs after they return from active duty military service to our country,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The Department Justice is committed to ensuring that our servicemembers’ employment rights are protected at home while they defend our rights abroad.”
“The tremendous sacrifice of our National Guard members who are called into active duty should never be a detriment to their lives and every day jobs. We in the U.S. Attorney’s Office are committed to ensuring that these men and women are honored, not disadvantaged, for their military service,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst. “We will continue to hold employers who violate the rights of our servicemembers accountable. We appreciate S3’s agreement to fulfilling its legal obligation to Mr. Cooper in this matter.”
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, S3 has agreed to pay Cooper $6,812.59 for lost wages, and to make his promotion effective as of the date on which he returned to work from active duty. He began his new position on June 4, 2018. The USERRA claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.
Cooper initially filed a complaint with the United States Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which investigated this matter and then referred it to the Justice Department after attempts at resolution failed.
The matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Mayberry of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi in collaboration with Andrew Braniff, Assistant Director of the Department of Justice’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative, and Alicia Johnson, USERRA/USAO Program Coordinator in the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division gives high priority to the enforcement of servicemembers’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA may 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.