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Press Release

Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against City of Chicago to Enforce USERRA Rights of U.S. Army Reservist

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of Captain and Judge Advocate Derrick Strong against the City of Chicago Fire Department (CFD), alleging that the City violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) when it failed to provide Strong with an opportunity, after his return from active duty military service, to take a promotional examination that he missed while deployed.

“The men and women of our Armed Forces make personal sacrifices to protect our nation, and they have rights that must be respected,” said John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “The Department of Justice will not falter in protecting the rights of those who selflessly serve our country.”   

“Beginning with the American Revolution and every day since the Revolution, American patriots risked their lives to establish and defend our nation by serving in the United States armed forces.  The United States has an obligation to ensure that employers do not penalize our servicemembers for performing their  military duty,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “Generations of Americans owe a debt of gratitude to our soldiers, sailors, and other servicemembers, and the United States Department of Justice remains committed to robust enforcement of civil rights protections for these brave women and men.”

According to the complaint, Strong is currently assigned to the 416th Theater Engineer Command’s (TEC), Office of the Staff Judge Advocate as a Trial Counsel and Administrative Law Attorney, where he provides legal advice and overall legal support to the 416th TEC and its Command. He is also employed as a Cross-Trained Firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician-Basic (Firefighter/EMT) for the Chicago Fire Department. Mr. Strong is currently assigned to Squad 5, which is a Special Operations Heavy Rescue unit. From Sept. 30, 2016, to June 26, 2017, he was actively deployed with the U.S. Army Reserve in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While Strong was deployed, the City of Chicago administered a test for firefighters to become fire engineers.  He alleges, as outlined in the complaint filed in federal court, that the CFD violated USERRA by failing to provide him with an opportunity to take a Fire Engineer promotional examination following his return to work upon his honorable discharge from active duty military service.

The Justice Department gives high priority to the enforcement of servicemembers’ rights under USERRA. This lawsuit stems from a referral to the United States Department of Justice from the United States Department of Labor, after an investigation by the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.  Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s websites here and here, as well as on the Department of Labor’s website here.

Updated December 18, 2019

Civil Rights