Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against Newark, New Jersey, Public Schools to Enforce the Employment Rights of U.S. Naval Reservist

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into a consent decree with the Newark Public Schools (NPS) that will resolve its lawsuit on behalf of George Lawton, a naval reservist, against NPS alleging it violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). Under the terms of the consent decree, NPS must provide Lawton with $6,125 to compensate him for the wages and benefits he lost as a result of NPS’s actions, and must offer to reemploy Lawton in the position he would have held but for his active duty service. The consent decree must be approved in federal court in Newark, N.J.

Subject to certain limitations, USERRA requires that servicemembers who leave their jobs to serve in the U.S. military be timely reemployed by their civilian employers in the same position, or in a comparable position to the position that they would have held had they not left to serve in the military. In its complaint, the Justice Department alleged that Lawton, a substitute teacher for NPS, was offered a full-time teaching position by NPS, but was called to active duty in August 2005 and deployed overseas before the start of the school year. Upon his completion of active duty in August 2007, NPS did not promptly reemploy Lawton as a substitute, nor offer him the full-time teaching position, despite his contacting NPS numerous times. Lawton filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), which investigated the matter, determined that his claim had merit and, upon failure of conciliation efforts, referred the matter to the Justice Department.

"The men and women who sacrifice so much to serve our nation in uniform should not also have to sacrifice their livelihood when they return from service," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Cases like this further reinforce the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the rights of our nation’s servicemembers."

So far in 2009, the Civil Rights Division has filed 22 USERRA lawsuits on behalf of service members. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s Web sites, http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp and http://www.servicemembers.gov, as well as on the Labor Department’s Web site at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.

Press Release Number: 
Updated September 15, 2014