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The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced today that they resolved a claim that luxury jeweler Harry Winston Inc. violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by refusing to offer full-time employment to U.S. Army National Guard Reservist John A. Walker because of his military service obligations.
“Discrimination against members of the National Guard or Reserve because of their service to our country is intolerable, violates the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and the Department of Justice will not stand for it,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “We honor all servicemembers for their service to our nation, and this settlement signals the Justice Department’s ongoing commitment in protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform.”
“Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines fight for us. Fighting for their legal rights is the least we can do,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick for the Southern District of Texas. “All service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, need to know that employers cannot discriminate against them based on their military service obligations. This settlement sends a strong message to employers that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will protect the rights of our service members.”
In December 2017, reservist Walker applied for a job with Harry Winston, Inc., which denied his application. Walker alleged that Harry Winston, Inc. refused to hire him because of his military service obligations. Under the terms of the settlement, Harry Winston, Inc. has agreed to fully compensate Walker for his back-pay and non-wage damages.
Congress enacted USERRA to encourage non-career service in the uniformed services by reducing employment disadvantages; to minimize the disruption to the lives of persons performing military service, their employers and others by providing for the prompt reemployment of such persons upon their completion of such service; and to prohibit discrimination against persons because of their service in the uniformed services or if they pursue a claim under USERRA.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) referred this matter following an investigation by their Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas and the Employment Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division handled the case and work collaboratively with the DOL to protect the jobs and benefits of military members.
This investigation was led by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Keith Edward Wyatt and Annalisa Cravens and Paralegal Specialist Raymond Babauta of the Southern District of Texas, along with Assistant Director Andrew Braniff of the Department of Justice’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative and Senior Trial Attorney Alicia Johnson of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section.