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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against Pima Community College for Violating the Employment Rights of Arizona Army National Guardsman

The Justice Department announced today it has reached a settlement agreement with Pima Community College (PCC) that, if approved by the U.S. District Court of the District of Arizona, will resolve allegations that PCC violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) by discriminating against Army National Guardsman Timothy Stoner.  USERRA prohibits employment discrimination based on a service member’s past, current or future military status, service or obligation.  Stoner, a PCC police officer, is a veteran of active duty military deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq with 22 years of total military service.  He is currently a Sergeant First Class in the Army National Guard.

The department’s complaint alleges that PCC violated USERRA by failing to promote Stoner to the position of police corporal in 2010 and in 2013.  According to the department’s complaint, PCC created the supervisory position of police corporal in 2010.  Before that position was created, Stoner was effectively performing comparable duties in his position as a lead police officer.  The lead police officer assignment was abolished by PCC when it created the supervisory police corporal job.  In 2010 and 2013, Stoner applied for promotion to police corporal, but both times he was not selected.  As alleged in the lawsuit, Stoner’s military service was a motivating factor in PCC’s decision to deny him promotion on both occasions.  As the complaint alleges, the former police chief, who was one of the selecting officials, demonstrated military animus toward Stoner by making anti-military statements to Stoner before and during the corporal selection process.  Under the terms of the settlement, PCC must provide Stoner the back pay that he lost due to its failure to promote him and PCC must place him in a regular police corporal position.  In addition, PCC must amend its written personnel policies to advise its employees of their rights and obligations under USERRA.     

“The men and women who serve in the National Guard makes a tremendous sacrifice to protect our nation,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery.  “We are dedicated to enforcing the laws ensuring that guard members do not have to sacrifice even more in their civilian careers.”

“This lawsuit and settlement reinforces the commitment of the Department of Justice to requiring employers to comply with their legal obligations under USERRA so that members of our military who sacrifice to serve this country are considered fairly for promotions and other employment opportunities,” said Vanita Gupta, Head of the Civil Rights Division.  “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce USERRA so that the rights of our uniformed service members are protected from unlawful discrimination in the workplace based on their military service obligations.”

Stoner initially filed a complaint with the U.S. Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which investigated this matter and, after resolution failed, referred it to the Justice Department.  The department’s Civil Rights Division, through its Employment Litigation Section, then filed suit on Stoner’s behalf.  The 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 http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp and http://www.servicemembers.gov, as well as on the Labor Department’s website at http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.

Updated August 4, 2015