Justice Department Reaches Settlement Agreement with Wifi Alliance Resolving the USERRA Claims of United States Army Reserve Officer
Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division and John F. Bash, United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas, today announced that the Department of Justice has reached a settlement agreement with WiFi Alliance, a non-profit organization headquartered in Austin, Texas. The settlement agreement resolves allegations that WiFi Alliance violated the employment rights of Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Charles O’Donnell, an Army 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.
According to the complaint, LTC O’Donnell’s military service was a motivating factor in WiFi Alliance’s decision to terminate his employment in 2016 as part of a reduction in force. The layoff was concurrent with his military duty, which supported West Point Admissions at the United States Military Academy.
LTC O’Donnell has served more than 22 years in the Armed Forces. He was a program manager with WiFi Alliance for three years.
Under the terms of the settlement, WiFi Alliance has agreed to pay $62,500 in back pay to LTC O’Donnell. In addition, WiFi Alliance has conducted a company-wide training on servicemember rights, and agreed to review and revise, if necessary, its anti-discrimination policies and procedures to ensure that current and future employees are aware of, and protected by, their USERRA rights.
“The men and women of our Armed Forces expect and are entitled to the peace of mind of knowing that their civilian employment will not be jeopardized because they serve our country,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “Through this lawsuit, the Department of Justice reaffirms its commitment to protecting the employment rights of the members of our Armed Forces.”
“We are pleased that our office was able to work alongside Acting Assistant Attorney General Gore and the dedicated career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division to obtain an agreement that will ensure that LTC O’Donnell will be compensated and that WiFi Alliance will train its supervisors in order to guarantee continued compliance with USERRA,” said United States Attorney John F. Bash of the Western District of Texas.
LTC O’Donnell initially filed a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), which investigated this matter and attempted to reach a resolution between the parties. After resolution efforts failed, VETS referred the complaint to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section. The lawsuit, filed on March 1, was a collaborative initiative between the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.
Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Torie Atkinson and Assistant United States Attorney James Dingivan represented LTC O’Donnell in this matter.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has given high priority to the enforcement of servicemembers’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s websites at http://www.justice.gov/crt/employment- litigation-section and www.servicemembers.gov, as well as on the Labor Department’s website at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.