By Debbie Gregory.
A former Jamestown, NY police officer has been awarded a settlement of $170,000 in damages from the city after a judge found he was discriminated against by the police department because of spending time away from the force due to his service in the Army Reserve.
Timothy Wright was deployed to Iraq in 2004 and served two six-month deployments to Afghanistan, beginning in 2009.
In 2007, Wright, who is now the chief of police in the Town of Carroll, filed a claim under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), saying the department did not include his terms of military service when calculating his vacation time. He claimed he was also denied a promotion. USERRA exists to protect military reservists against such discrimination.
In 2014, a Supreme Court jury in Chautauqua County ruled in Wright’s favor regarding the vacation time that was unfairly calculated, but ruled against him re: the missed promotion. The city and police department moved to appeal the decision but then dropped the action.
On July 17, State Supreme Court Justice Frank A. Sedita awarded Wright $44,656 in compensation, an additional $44,656 in damages and more than $83,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
In 1994, when Congress enacted USERRA, it stated explicitly that veterans and service members cannot waive any of their rights under USERRA, that they have a right to enforce their rights in federal court, and that they cannot be required to arbitrate their USERRA claims. USERRA is part of the U.S. government’s effort to ensure that military personnel are not penalized for serving their country.
The ruling is a victory for all veterans who may experience discrimination when they return to their jobs after their military service.