This is an UPDATE of an article originally published on July 6, 2011.
On June 30, 2011, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Tacoma, on behalf of Dave Axtell, a U.S. Air Force reservist. The Defendants were:
The lawsuit alleges that the Defendants violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) by:
SIDE BAR: Subject to certain conditions, USERRA requires employers to promptly re-employ returning service members in the positions they would have held had their employment been not interrupted by military service or in a position of like seniority, status and pay. In addition, depending upon the length of absence for military service, service members who are re-employed cannot be terminated, except for just cause, within one year after the date of reemployment.
According to the Complaint, the Defendants violated USERRA by not promptly or properly re-employing Axtell in his previous pre-service position as a driver supervisor, or in a position with comparable seniority status and pay. Pointedly, the Defendants allegedly waited three months to reemploy Axtell, and thereafter employed him in an unsalaried, lower status position requiring longer hours.
Thereafter, the Defendants allegedly terminated Axtell's employment without cause shortly after re-employing him, also in violation of USERRA.
The Justice Department seeks the lost wages and benefits that Axtell would have received if he had been properly reemployed in his pre-service position as a driver supervisor, or a comparable position, as well as damages resulting from the unlawful termination of his employment. The Complaint also seeks double damages based upon a willful violation of USERRA.
SIDE BAR: Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department's websites at www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp and www.servicemembers.gov, as well as on the Labor Department's website at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.
On October 27, 2011, the Justice Department announced a settlement with JJW, its parent company Trans-System Inc., and System TWT Transportation Inc., under which the Defendants must pay Axtell $60,000 to compensate him for lost wages and benefits. Among other things, the settlement also requires that the Defendants provide training to JJW's high level officials and human resources staff concerning the USERRA rights and obligations of employers and covered employees. The settlement is awaiting approval by the federal district court in Tacoma, WA.