U.S. Stepping Up Enforcement of Veterans' Reemployment Rights
By Tom Banse
An Army Reservist will collect back pay from an Everett, Washington company accused of violating his reemployment rights. The U.S Justice Department announced a settlement Monday with the battery retailer that fired the Iraq War veteran.
Military reservists and National Guardsmen have broad "re-employment rights" guaranteed by federal law. Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, employers have to welcome back returning soldiers to the jobs they would have had if they'd never deployed... or something with equivalent seniority, status and pay.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Diaz says historically his Seattle office took one case per year to court. But in the past three years, they've litigated eight cases.
Mike Diaz: "There definitely has been an influx of these types of cases in this area."
Diaz says the cause is probably a mix of things.
Mike Diaz: "A combination of folks returning from overseas and also an increased enforcement focus on these types of cases."
Officials with the Oregon and Washington National Guard say they've already seen the number of inquiries from veterans peak and now drop off as fewer reservists have to leave jobs for deployments.
In the case from Everett, the battery retailer agreed to pay $37,500 to an Army reservist demoted and then fired following his deployment to Iraq. Mike Diaz says a common thread in the cases he sees is unfamiliarity with the legal obligations of employers to service members.
Lt. Colonel Matt Cooper of the Washington National Guard says in his experience most cases are resolved without going to court. An office of the Defense Department called Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve helps service members and employers find workable solutions. "They try to solve problems as informally as possible," said Cooper.
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve:
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (Wikipedia):