By Debbie Gregory.
Military personnel, especially Guardsmen and Reservists, need to know that laws under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protect you and your right to work. USERRA obligates employers to promptly re-employ service members returning from deployment, and place them in the position that they would have been in if they had not left for military service. If the service member’s original position is no longer available, the employer is required by USERRA to provide them a position of similar seniority, status and pay.
USERRA also prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of past military service, current military obligations, or an intent to serve. Under USERRA, employers must not deny initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment to a person on the basis of a past, present, or future service obligation. Also, an employer cannot retaliate against a Veteran because of any action taken to enforce or exercise any USERRA right or for assisting in an USERRA investigation.
Currently, the Department of Justice is suing Con-way Freight Inc., citing USSERA, on behalf of a Veteran who claims that the company violated his USERRA rights by failing to reassign him to his former position, after he recovered from a temporary service-related medical disability.
Naval Reservist Dale Brown has worked for Con-ways’s Rock Island, IL branch since 1987. He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves in 1999. In 2006, Brown was deployed to Iraq, where he injured his shoulder. Brown stayed on active duty until his honorable discharge in January, 2009. Upon his discharge, Brown went back to work at Con-way.
The DOJ claims that Con-way assigned Brown to a lower-paying position due to medical restrictions that prevented him from returning to his former position. The suit states that when Brown had made a full recovery, he notified his employer that he was able to resume work without medical restrictions. Con-way refused to return Brown to his previous position and instead made him apply for open positions as they became available. Six months later, Brown was eventually rehired to his old position, but Con-way treated him “as a new employee with no seniority to bid on assignments,” the suit stated.
The lawsuit seeks an adjustment to Brown’s seniority date as a driver sales representative to his pre-deployment date. The suit is also asking for back wages in relation to Con-way’s six month delay in re-employing Brown after he requested reinstatement following his medical clearance, and his inability to bid on desirable shifts and routes due to his lack of seniority.
Con-way denies any wrong doing, stating that they support service members and Veterans, including Brown.
Military Connection is a proud supporter of Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and upholding USERRA laws. Our goal is not to condemn employers, but make Veterans aware of their rights and protections under the law. No Veteran should be punished or penalized in any way for their military service. For more information about USERRA, visit the Department of Labor’s website USERRA Portal.