Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division And The U.S. Attorney’s Office For The Eastern District Of North Carolina Reach Settlement With Warren County, North Carolina, Board Of Education To Resolve Employment Rights Claim Of A North Carolina Army
RALEIGH - The Justice Department and the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina announced today a settlement with the Warren County, North Carolina, Board of Education that resolves a lawsuit the Department filed on behalf of North Carolina Army Reserve soldier Dwayne Coffer under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
The settlement, which was filed as a Consent Agreement in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, resolves allegations that the Warren County Board of Education willfully violated USERRA by not renewing Coffer’s employment contract in 2008 because of his military service obligations. Coffer, a Sergeant First Class in the United States Army Reserve, worked at Warren County High School as an Assistant Principal. During his employment with the County, Coffer took periodic leave from work to fulfill his military obligations. According to the Justice Department’s complaint, the Board did not renew Coffer’s contract as an Assistant Principal in 2008 because staff members expressed frustration at accommodating his military service during the school year.
USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against service members with respect to employment opportunities based on their past, current or future uniformed service obligations. USERRA also requires employers to promptly reemploy service members following their return from military leave. Under the terms of the Consent Agreement, the Warren County Board of Education will, among other things, reemploy Coffer under a two-year contract as a Lead Teacher/Site Supervisor at the salary he would have received had he remained continuously employed by the County, pay back-pay to Coffer in the amount of $10,000, and contribute lost retirement payments to Coffer’s retirement account in the amount of $13,702.63.
“USERRA affords military members who leave their civilian careers behind for significant periods of time to serve our country certain protections against unjust terminations,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “It is important that veterans have the opportunity to serve their country free from worry about termination without cause.”
United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker stated, “I am pleased we were able to resolve this matter. Improper job terminations over military service cannot be tolerated.”
The Justice Department initiated the lawsuit after Coffer filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which investigated the matter and determined that the complaint had merit. This case was handled by the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.