Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against the City of Winchester, Va., to Enforce Employment Rights of U.S. Marine Corps Reservist
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a settlement with the city of Winchester, Va., to resolve allegations that the city violated the reemployment rights of U.S. Marine Corps reservist Jon Fultz. The suit alleged the city violated Fultz’s reemployment rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) when he returned to work after military training during which he suffered a knee injury.
The complaint by the Justice Department, filed on behalf of Fultz in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, alleged that, in 2009, the city failed to properly reemploy Fultz in his pre-service position as a full duty community resource officer assigned to manage the city police department’s fleet of vehicles. According to the complaint, when Fultz returned to work, the city restored him to his previous fleet manager assignment, but placed him in a temporary “light duty” status he had not requested and which subjected him to removal from his job. Months later, the city removed him from his position without prior notice, purportedly for safety-related reasons, and ultimately terminated his employment.
“The men and women who bravely serve our nation in the armed forces should not have to sacrifice their civilian employment to do so. Employers have a legal obligation to reemploy service members injured during their service in the correct job status when they return from military duty,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the rights of those who, through their bravery and sacrifice, secure the rights of all Americans.”
“The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to enforcing the laws that protect the rights of those brave men and women who serve our country proudly,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “Our soldiers must be able to serve with the confidence that they will be restored to their prior employment when they return to the workforce.”
Under the terms of the settlement, embodied in a consent decree that has been submitted for approval to the federal district court in Harrisonburg, Va., the city must provide Fultz with $32,000 in compensation for the lost wages that Fultz claimed he would have received had he been properly reemployed as a full duty community resource officer following his military service. The settlement also requires the city to provide training to its human resources director and its department heads on the rights and obligations of covered employees and their employers under USERRA.
Subject to certain conditions, USERRA requires employers to promptly reemploy returning service members in the position they would have held had their employment not been interrupted by military service, or in a position of like seniority, status, and pay. T his case stems from a referral from the U.S. Labor Department following an investigation by its Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.
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