One of the many important rights that members of our armed forces should be able to count on when they return from a period of service is a reliable measure of job security. This protection comes from the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which provides members of the National Guard and Reserve with the right to reemployment following an absence for military service. USERRA was enacted with the intention of helping prevent the discrimination of and retaliation against service members by their employers as a result of their reserve duty related absences. When an employer is thought to have violated these rights, the Department of Justice can and will take action in aid of the service member, if this is deemed necessary.
The termination of Lieutenant Commander Bobby Lindsey
This is what took place recently in Maryland, when in December 2017; the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the government contractor, Bridges Consulting, Inc.(“Bridges”) after their alleged violation of the reemployment and retaliation protections that USERRA provides to service members. In this case, the complaints came from former Bridges employee, Lieutenant Commander Bobby Lindsay, who has over 30 years of service in the Armed Forces and who had been employed by Bridges as a senior manager since 2012. Lindsay filed his initial complaint against the company after his position was terminated and funds were removed from his retirement account while he was on a scheduled tour of duty as a reservist in the U.S. Coast Guard in July 2014.
The allegations against Bridges Consulting, Inc.
Bridges, a private, for-profit government contractor who provide support in the intelligence, defense and federal sectors as both a prime contractor and subcontractor, are alleged to have violated Lindsay’s USERRA rights in the following ways:
● Failing to promptly and properly reemploy Lindsay upon his return from active duty.
● Terminating Lindsay on the basis of his absence, which was to fulfill and perform his military service obligations to the Coast Guard.
● Withdrawing funds from Lindsay’s 401k account following his termination, without either prior notification or proper termination procedures taking place.
● Refusal to reemploy Lindsay for positions at the company for which he was qualified following notification that Lindsay had filed complaints against the company regarding the violation of his rights under USERRA.
The rights of men and women in the reserve forces in California
This case, while still pending, is still a heartening example of the willingness of the Department of Justice to stand up for the rights that USERRA was enacted to protect for members of the reserve forces. The state of California, which is certainly no stranger to reservists, also extends additional protections for residents who serve in the California National Guard, Reserves or Naval Militia. Among these are the entitlement of unlimited pay leave and reinstatement to their prior position or a position of similar seniority level, pay and status without loss of benefits or retirement for those who are called to active duty, and up to 17 days of unpaid leave each year for California employees who are in the National Guard, Reserves or Naval Militia as needed for military training, drills or other related duties or obligations.
If you have questions about the employment protections provided through USERRA or by the state of California to service members of the reserve forces, or if you are a service member whose rights have been violated following your return from duty, we would be happy to speak with you regarding your legal options. Please contact our offices today for a free consultation.