News: Quick Takes

DOJ files complaint against Warren County education board, which eliminated Reservist’s job

The Warren County Board of Education is in hot water for eliminating an Army Reservist’s job while he was called up to active duty.

The Department of Justice filed a complaint in federal court Wednesday, April 10, to protect rights guaranteed to Command Sgt. Maj. Dwayne Coffer under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.

The complaint alleges Coffer’s job as dean of students at Warren County Middle School was eliminated while he was on active duty. Instead of re-employing him in a comparable job, the school system demoted him to physical education teacher at Northside Elementary School.

The complaint seeks to reinstate Coffer into a proper reemployment position and recover lost wages, and other benefits.

This is the second time the Justice Department sued Warren County for failing to renew Coffer’s employment contract. The earlier lawsuit involved Coffer’s 2012 period of military service.

“The freedoms we enjoy as Americans are dependent on the selfless duties performed by members of our Armed Forces,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a news release. “When our country calls service members to duty, its laws, enforced by the Department of Justice, protect their civilian jobs.”

USERRA protects the rights of uniformed servicemembers to retain their civilian employment following absences due to military service obligations, and provides that service members shall not be discriminated against because of their military obligations, the news release from U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. of the Eastern District of North Carolina

The Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service investigated the case, and the Labor Department referred the case for action at Coffer’s request.

Information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s websites here and here, and on the U.S. Department of Labor website.