Virginia News: ALEXANDRIA, Local Business Settles Claims it Violated Servicemember’s Rights

ALEXANDRIA, Va.  (STL.News) – Lawn Doctor of Stafford-Culpepper, doing business as Beck I, LLC, has agreed to settle claims that the business and its owners violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) by suspending and terminating a U.S. Army Reserve soldier following his return from active duty military service.

“Military reservists make tremendous sacrifices when they are called to active duty,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Such service should never be a detriment to their livelihood. We are committed to ensuring that these men and women are honored, not disadvantaged, for their military service, and will continue to hold employers who violate the rights of our servicemembers accountable.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s involvement in this matter began with a complaint that was referred to the Department of Justice by the Department of Labor concerning a servicemember who worked as a landscaper for Lawn Doctor of Stafford-Culpeper in Fredericksburg. The servicemember alleged that on Oct. 26, 2017, he received orders for active duty service with his U.S. Army Reserve unit from Oct. 30, 2017, through Nov. 3, 2017. The servicemember alleged that he promptly informed his supervisor of his upcoming military duty and was told that failure to appear for work would be considered job abandonment. The servicemember returned to work on Nov. 6, 2017, and was immediately suspended, pending termination. On Nov. 8, 2017, Lawn Doctor of Stafford-Culpeper terminated the servicemember’s employment. The servicemember complained that as a result of the termination due to his military service, the servicemember lost income.

“Men and women who serve in the national guard and reserve should never have to worry whether their civilian jobs will be waiting when they return from active duty service to our country,” said Eric S. Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is firmly committed to protecting our servicemembers’ employment rights are while they defend our rights.”

USERRA protects the rights of members of the uniformed services to retain their civilian employment following absences due to military service obligations, and expressly requires employers to reemploy servicemembers when they return from military service.

This case stems from a referral by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) following an investigation by the DOL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Deirdre G. Brou in collaboration with Andrew Braniff, Assistant Director of the Department of Justice’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative, who works with DOL to protect the jobs and benefits of National Guard and Reserve servicemembers upon their return to civilian life.

Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department website and the division website, as well as on the DOL’s website.

The civil claims settled are allegations only; there has been no determination of civil liability.