Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against Penske Truck Leasing Co. to Enforce Employment Rights of Air Force Reserve Member
The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente for the Eastern District of Virginia announced today that they had reached an agreement with Penske Truck Leasing Co. resolving claims that Penske violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by failing to properly reemploy and then terminating U.S. Air Force Reserve Member William Mann following his return from required military training with his reserve unit.
According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Mann was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant in 2011 from the U.S. Air Force after serving with the 512 Mortuary Affairs Squadron at Dover Air Force Base. During his service, Mann suffered a service-related injury. Immediately upon his discharge, Mann notified Penske of his ability to return to work with some medical limitations. The complaint alleged that Penske refused to reemploy Mann, instead placing him on short term leave. In October 2011, while Mann was on short-term leave, he informed Penske that he would need more time to fully recover from his injuries. Two months later, Penske terminated Mann’s employment.
USERRA protects the rights of members of the uniformed services to retain their civilian employment following absences due to military service obligations, and expressly requires employers to accommodate injured servicemembers when they return from military service.
“Congress enacted USERRA to protect our men and women in uniform from experiencing the kind of injustice experienced by Mr. Mann,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to vigorously enforcing federal laws that protect the employment rights of our servicemembers.”
Under the terms of the settlement, which was filed as a consent decree simultaneously with the complaint, Penske has agreed to pay $85,000 in lost wages to Mann.
“Members of the Air Force Reserve sacrifice time away from their jobs to serve their country,” said U.S. Attorney Boente. “When servicemembers are injured in relation to their service, USERRA ensures that they are not discriminated against and that their employment rights are protected.”
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 is being handled by the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, who work collaboratively with the DOL to protect the jobs and benefits of National Guard and Reserve servicemembers upon their return to civilian life.