The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U. S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III for the Middle District of Florida announced today that they reached an agreement with Key Safety Systems Inc. resolving claims that Key Safety Systems violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by demoting U.S. Army National Guard Member Ronald Collins Jr. following the announcement of his military deployment.
According to the complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, in October 2012, Collins notified Key Safety Systems that he was being deployed in February 2013 for one year of military service. In December 2012, Collins was notified by Key Safety Systems that, effective immediately, he was being demoted, which resulted in a reduction in pay. According to the complaint, Collins had not been the subject of any disciplinary actions prior to the announcement of his impending deployment.
The complaint further alleged that, at the time of the demotion, Collins was not provided any basis underlying the decision to demote him. In January 2014, Collins returned from deployment and was returned to the position to which he had been demoted at Key Safety Systems. Collins submitted his letter of resignation to Key Safety Systems in February 2014.
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.
“Congress enacted USERRA to protect our men and women in uniform,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Molly Moran for the Civil Rights Division. “Mr. Collins, like many members of the National Guard and Reserve, was called upon by his country in a time of need and the Department of Justice strongly supports the rights of service members to reclaim their rightful positions in the workforce after they complete their military service.”
Under the terms of the settlement, which was filed as a consent decree simultaneously with the complaint, Key Safety Systems has agreed to pay $20,000 as back pay and liquidated damages to Collins.
“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 Bentley. “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’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, 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.