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Press Release

Justice Department Sues Oklahoma City Public Schools to Protect Servicemember Reemployment Rights

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Oklahoma

Note: View the full complaint here

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Justice Department has sued Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) to protect rights guaranteed to an Air Force Reserve Senior Airman, Michael J. McCullough, by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, alleges that OKCPS violated USERRA when it failed to reinstate McCullough in a teacher position upon his return from a military deployment.

“We owe a solemn duty to protect the rights of our servicemembers when called upon to defend our nation. This lawsuit reinforces the Justice Department’s strong commitment to protecting the rights of those who wear the uniform proudly,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. “USERRA provides important reemployment protections, and we must act when any employer denies them an opportunity to earn a living because they are called to duty.”

“Service members are called to leave their home and work to serve and protect us,” said U.S. Attorney Robert J. Troester for the Western District of Oklahoma. “It is our job to make sure their employment rights are protected once they return home. My office will continue to vigorously defend the rights justly earned by those who serve our country.”

According to the complaint, McCullough was employed by OKCPS as a music teacher in January 2022. He was under contract for the remainder of the school year, and his principal told him that she wanted him to return to teach the following year. In February 2022, McCullough was ordered to perform military service. When he notified his principal, she suggested it would be easier if he just resigned his teaching position. Less than a month later, during his deployment, OKCPS advised McCullough that his contract for the 2022-2023 school year would not be renewed. Prior to and on his return from active military duty, OKCPS refused McCullough’s repeated requests for reemployment, despite available positions. The lawsuit seeks lost wages, other employment benefits and other remedies. The complaint also seeks liquidated damages because this is the second time that OKCPS’ refusal to reemploy McCullough following military service has required USERRA enforcement action.

USERRA protects the rights of uniformed servicemembers to reemployment in their civilian employment following absences due to military service obligations and provides that servicemembers shall not be discriminated against because of their military obligations. The Justice Department gives high priority to the enforcement of servicemembers’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s websites at www.justice.gov/crt-military/employment-rights-userra and www.justice.gov/servicemembers as well as on the Department of Labor’s website at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra.

The Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service investigated the case and referred the case to the Justice Department at McCullough’s request.

Trial Attorney Robert Galbreath of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Fagan for the Western District of Oklahoma are handling the case.

Updated May 29, 2024

Topic
Labor & Employment