Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against Bullhead City Fire District in Arizona to Enforce Employment Rights of United States Army Reserves Member
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced today that a settlement has been reached with the Bullhead City Fire District (BCFD) in Arizona, resolving claims that BCFD violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), by discriminating against U.S. Army Reserves Member Brett Guinan and by failing to reemploy him following his military deployment. USERRA protects the rights of uniformed service members to retain their civilian employment following absences due to military service obligations, and provides that service members shall not be discriminated against because of their military obligations.
According to the complaint, filed yesterday in the United States District Court of the District of Arizona, BCFD discriminated against Guinan by terminating his employment on the basis of his military service. The complaint alleges that, between 2008 and 2013, Guinan was deployed three times in the Army Reserves. During his second military deployment, Guinan’s supervisor began making negative statements about Guinan’s military service obligations. In June 2013, while Guinan was serving his third deployment, BCFD eliminated Guinan’s Fire Inspector position and terminated his employment, claiming to have undergone a “reduction in workforce.” Guinan’s Fire Inspector position, however, was the only job position eliminated in 2013. After Guinan’s position was eliminated, BCFD also continued to pay other people to perform Guinan’s Fire Inspector duties and continued to post new job openings on its website. The complaint further alleges that after Guinan returned from his third deployment, he notified BCFD that he was seeking reemployment. Despite Guinan’s efforts to be reemployed, BCFD refused to reemploy him as required by USERRA.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, filed along with the complaint, BCFD has agreed to pay $75,000 as back pay and front pay damages to Guinan. BCFD also has agreed to adopt a new personnel policy that informs employees of their rights and obligations under USERRA and to provide USERRA training to all supervisory staff in its five fire stations.
“This settlement will provide much needed relief to U.S. Army Reserve Member Brett Guinan, who lost his job simply for serving our country,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery. “I want to thank the Department of Labor for referring this case to the Department of Justice. I’m hopeful that through the department’s newly created Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative, we will continue to build on our strong ties with federal partners and continue using every tool at our disposal to protect the rights of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.”
“The men and women who wear our nation’s uniform need to know that they will be protected from the types of injustice experienced by Mr. Guinan,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice, through its enforcement of USERRA, strongly supports the right of service members to retain their rightful positions in the workforce both while they serve and after they complete their military service to our country.”
This case stems from a referral by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), pursuant to an investigation by the DOL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. The case is being handled by the Employment Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which works collaboratively with the DOL to protect the jobs and benefits of Army Reserves service members upon their return to civilian life.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has given a high priority to the enforcement of service members’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s websites 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.