DOJ files USERRA complaint against Warren County schools

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against the Warren County Board of Education, claiming it ­violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Re­­em­­ploy­­ment Rights Act (USERRA) when it refused to reinstate an assistant principal, a 20-year veteran of the Army Reserve who had been called to active-duty service in Kuwait and Afghanistan.

Before his deployment in 2004 and 2005, the man had been assistant principal of Warren County High School.

When the school board debated whether to renew his contract, several staff members expressed frustration that he missed too much time due to his military commitments. The board ultimately elected not to renew his contract.

The educator filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Services (VETS), which investigated and determined his complaint had merit. VETS forwarded the complaint to the Justice Department, which has now filed suit seeking compensation for lost wages and benefits and liquidated damages. The suit also calls for him to be ­reinstated.

Note: The school board should have consulted its attorney to understand its obligations under USERRA, a law that grants greater rights to employees than almost any other federal or state anti-discrimination law. Returning reservists have an affirmative right to their old jobs unless they have been away from the position for longer than the law permits or simply cannot perform the job. Even then, employers must attempt to accommodate vets who are disabled.

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