Justice Department Settles Lawsuit with Commonwealth of Massachusetts and City of Brockton, Mass., to Enforce Employment Rights of U.S. Army Reservist
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced today that the city of Brockton, Mass., promoted U.S. Army Reservist Brian Benvie on Dec. 16, 2011, to the position of lieutenant in the city’s police department, and that the commonwealth of Massachusetts has afforded him retroactive seniority and $32,356.84 of backpay in that position. The promotion and other related relief satisfy the terms of a settlement agreement entered after the Department of Justice filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Dec. 16, 2010. The complaint alleged that the entities violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) when they refused to permit Benvie to take the October 2008 lieutenants’ promotional exam, thereby denying him proper reemployment with the seniority, status and benefits he would have enjoyed but for his military service.
Subject to certain conditions, USERRA requires employers to promptly reemploy returning service members in the positions they would have held had their employment not been interrupted by military service, or in a position of like seniority, status and pay.
The department’s complaint alleged that the city and the commonwealth violated 38 U.S.C. §§ 4312-13, among other ways, by: failing to recognize and give full effect to Benvie’s retroactive promotion date to sergeant – the date he would have been promoted to sergeant but for his military service. The complaint also alleged that this failure to fully recognize Benvie’s retroactive promotion date to the sergeant position subsequently led the defendants to refuse to permit Benvie the opportunity to take the October 2008 lieutenants’ promotional exam, thereby continuing to deny Benvie proper reemployment with the seniority, status and benefits he would have enjoyed but for his military service.
“The men and women who bravely serve our nation in the armed forces should not have to sacrifice their civilian career opportunities to do so. Employers have a legal obligation to ensure returning service members are placed back into the appropriate position and status, when they return from military duty, as required by law,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the rights of those who, through their courage and sacrifice, secure the rights of all Americans.”
“Our service members must be able to serve their nation and its citizens with the confidence that they will not face discrimination in employment when they return,” said Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “The United States Attorney’s Office remains committed to protecting the rights of the many brave soldiers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
The case was litigated by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sonya Rao and Jennifer Serafyn in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, in collaboration with the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. The case stems from a referral from the U.S. Labor Department following an investigation by its Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices have 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.justice.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 .