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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against Missouri National Guard to Enforce Employment Rights of Civilian National Guard Technician

The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced today that a settlement has been reached with the Missouri National Guard (MNG) to resolve allegations that MNG violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) by requiring its civilian National Guard dual technician employees to be separated from their civilian positions prior to entering active military duty service with the U.S. Active Guard Reserve (AGR) Program.

According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Missouri, MNG violated the USERRA rights of Kinata Holt, a civilian National Guard dual technician, by requiring her to give up her civilian employment as a condition of being called to active duty with the AGR.  The Justice Department alleged that MNG’s refusal to place Holt on furlough or leave of absence from her civilian job, by forcing her separation, resulted in the loss of paid military leave to which she would otherwise have been entitled.  Under the terms of the settlement agreement, which is subject to approval by the district court, MNG has agreed to rescind its current policy requiring separation in order to enter the AGR and to compensate Holt by awarding her 30 days of paid military leave.

The settlement agreement also provides that MNG will compensate 137 other civilian National Guard dual technicians who were similarly denied military leave benefits.  As a part of the agreed upon terms of settlement for those employees, each will receive a leave credit of 15 days of paid military leave for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.  Collectively, these employees will receive more than 2,000 days of paid leave for the past year, and be awarded paid military leave in the future as they continue to serve on active duty with AGR.

“This settlement will provide much deserved relief to Kinata Holt and 137 other service members who lost their military benefits because of the actions of MNG,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery.  “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces and we will continue to devote time and resources to hold bad actors accountable.”

“The Missouri National Guard, like other state employers, has a legal obligation under USERRA to provide the full range of rights and benefits to military service members that are permitted under the statute,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce the rights of uniformed service members in retaining their civilian employment benefits while on an absence due to military service obligations.”

This case stems from a referral by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) following an investigation by the DOL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.  The case was handled by the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Missouri, both of whom work collaboratively with DOL to protect the jobs and benefits of National Guard and Reserve Servicemembers.

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 26, 2015