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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against Equity Transportation Co., Inc. to Enforce Employment Rights of United States Army National Guard Member

The United States Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles Jr. announced today that a settlement has been reached with Equity Transportation Inc. (ETC) resolving claims that ETC violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), by failing to reemploy U.S. Army National Guard Member Johnathan Dunn following his military deployment.

According to documents filed today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Dunn is a Sergeant in the United States Army National Guard serving with the 230th Sustainment Brigade DET1 out of Smyrna, Tennessee.  In August 2012, Dunn notified his employer, ETC, that he was going to be deployed for one month of active-duty military service in September 2012 with the Army National Guard’s Counter-Drug Taskforce.  The department alleges that Dunn served his active-duty and was released honorably after four weeks.  Upon his release from active-duty on Sept. 27, 2012, Dunn notified ETC that he was ready to return to work immediately.  Instead of promptly re-employing Dunn, ETC advised him that his employment had been terminated while he was on leave because of too many absences from work.  The department alleges that not only did ETC fail to reemploy Dunn upon his return from military leave, but that the employer has also failed to reemploy him since that time.  Under the terms of the settlement, filed as a consent decree, ETC has agreed to pay $11,000 as back pay and liquidated damages to Dunn.

USERRA protects the rights of uniformed servicemembers to retain their civilian employment following absences due to military service obligations, and provides that servicemembers shall not be discriminated against because of their military obligations.

“The men and women who wear our nation’s uniform need to know that they will be protected from the types of injustices experienced by Mr. Dunn when they return from military service,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division.  “The Department of Justice, through its enforcement of USERRA, strongly supports the rights of service members in reclaiming their rightful positions in the workforce after they complete their military service to our country.”

“Members of the United States Army National Guard are often called to make many sacrifices, including spending months or years away from their jobs and families,” said U.S. Attorney Miles.  “When they are deployed in the service of our country, their employment rights must be protected.  Our office and the entire Department of Justice are committed to ensuring that individuals do not lose their rights while they are protecting ours.”

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 Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan, who work collaboratively with the DOL to protect the jobs and benefits of National Guard and Reserve servicemembers 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.

Updated August 27, 2015