On September 6, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it reached a settlement with the city of Winchester, Va., to resolve allegations that the city violated the reemployment rights of U.S. Marine Corps reservist Jon Fultz. The suit alleged the city violated Fultz’s reemployment rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) when he returned to work after military training during which he suffered a knee injury.
The complaint alleged that, in 2009, the city failed to properly reemploy Fultz in his pre-service position as a full duty community resource officer assigned to manage the city police department’s fleet of vehicles. According to the complaint, when Fultz returned to work, the city restored him to his previous fleet manager assignment, but placed him in a temporary “light duty” status he had not requested and which subjected him to removal from his job. Months later, the city removed him from his position without prior notice, purportedly for safety-related reasons, and ultimately terminated his employment.
“The men and women who bravely serve our nation in the armed forces should not have to sacrifice their civilian employment to do so. Employers have a legal obligation to reemploy service members injured during their service in the correct job status when they return from military duty,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
Under the terms of the settlement, the city must provide Fultz with $32,000 in compensation for the lost wages that Fultz claimed he would have received had he been properly reemployed as a full duty community resource officer following his military service. The settlement also requires the city to provide training to its human resources director and its department heads on the rights and obligations of covered employees and their employers under USERRA.
The USERRA law protects a service member who leaves his or her civilian job after being called up on active duty. Subject to certain conditions, USERRA requires employers to promptly reemploy returning service members in the position they would have held had their employment not been interrupted by military service, or in a position of like seniority, status, and pay.