Port St. Lucie has settled a race discrimination claim filed by a demoted meter reader for $60,000 and a promotion. The black woman filing the suit was a meter reader supervisor when she was called away for duty in the Army Reserve. Upon returning, she found she had been demoted and a white male now held her position.
Further, she maintained her new supervisor orally harassed black employees and treated white employees better. The city claimed the woman had merely been “transferred.” But rather than test that dubious assertion in court, the city elected to settle. Under the settlement agreement, the woman was awarded $60,000 and returned to her former position.
Advice: It’s a risky move to demote or fail to return to their former positions employees absent for military duty. Reservists and National Guard members have rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Unlike other employment laws, USERRA grants protected employees broad rights that may conflict with conventional notions of at-will employment.
Returning reservists generally are entitled to reinstatement to their former jobs at the same rate of pay, including any raises they normally would have received in the time they were gone. Check with your attorney before pursuing any other course.