Guard members and employment rights

In recent years, many of our fellow citizens who do double-duty as members of the National Guard or Reserves have been called back into active duty. For most, this has meant leaving their full-time employment to serve. When they return, they are supposed to resume their positions at their current jobs. However, sometimes a company wants to skirt the law and the employee rights of the service person are violated. Our New York readers might be interested in a case in another part of the country where a National Guardsman was recently awarded a settlement because of the actions of his former employer, interestingly enough, a sheriff’s office.

The man started working for the sheriff’s office in 2002. He was promoted to corporal in 2007. While stationed in Iraq in 2004 with his National Guard unit, he injured his knee, and then aggravated the injury in 2008 while at guard training. While recovering from surgeries in 2009, his request for light-duty was denied. He was also forced to fill out unnecessary medical leave paperwork and had to undergo several tests to determine whether he was fit for duty. After all of the tests and evaluations, he was fired.

The corporal filed suit, and recently the U.S. Justice Department announced it had reached a settlement with the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office does not agree with all of the charges brought against it, but does agree to pay the corporal $150,000, half of which is lost pay. The sheriff’s office will also provide a letter requesting that the corporal again be eligible for state employment.

The Justice Department most likely found that the sheriff’s office was in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, also referred to as USERRA. It protects active duty guard and reserve women and men from losing their jobs when they are called up to serve. For anyone who is facing an employment issue stemming from active duty service, or some other issue, speaking with an attorney who is experienced in employee rights can help determine the best course of action to take.

The Spokesman-Review, “Jerrome sheriff’s office settles deployed guard member’s employment rights case” Betsy, Sep. 09, 2013

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