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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Department of Justice Files Lawsuit Against Prince George County, Virginia, to Enforce Servicemember’s Employment Rights

The Justice Department announced today that it filed a civil complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against Prince George County, Virginia, and the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) to enforce employment rights guaranteed to a member of the Virginia Army National Guard, Major Mark Gunn, under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).

In its complaint, the United States alleges that Gunn had been a detective with the Prince George County Police Department for 14 years when, in January 2016, he was called to active duty by the Virginia Army National Guard. The United States further alleges that when Gunn returned from his active-duty service, the County refused to allow Gunn to return to his detective position. Instead, the County demoted him to a Patrol Unit officer position. The United States also alleges that the County denied Gunn employment benefits that he would have accrued during his period of active-duty service, including a bonus awarded to County employees. Finally, the United States alleges that the County’s unlawful actions caused Gunn to leave his employment with the Prince George County Police Department and return to active duty in the Virginia Army National Guard. The complaint seeks to have Gunn effectively reinstated to his prior detective position and to recover employment benefits that the County denied him during his period of active-duty service from 2016 to 2018, as well as the VRS pension credits and benefits that he lost as a result of the County’s USERRA alleged violations.

“Servicemembers who take military leave from their civilian jobs to serve their country are entitled to return to their prior positions without having to sacrifice their hard-earned promotions and employment benefits,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will work tirelessly to enforce federal laws that protect the rights of servicemembers when they are called up to service.”

“It is our profound duty to help protect the brave servicemembers who temporarily leave their civilian employment when called upon to serve our country in times of need,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh for the Eastern District of Virginia. “These courageous Americans make immeasurable personal sacrifices associated with safeguarding the freedoms we enjoy. We will do everything we can to ensure that civilian employers comply with their legal obligation to return these honorable women and men to their previous jobs following their military service.”

USERRA protects the rights of uniformed servicemembers to retain their civilian employment following absences due to military service obligations and provides that servicemembers shall not be discriminated against because of their military obligations. USERRA also requires employers to provide pension benefits when their employees are called to active duty. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and Justice Department gives high priority to the enforcement of servicemembers’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s websites at www.justice.gov/crt-military/employment-rights-userra and www.justice.gov/servicemembers as well as on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) website at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra.

This case stems from a referral by the U.S. Department of Labor, at Major Gunn’s request, after an investigation by that agency’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deirdre Brou, Lauren Oberheim, and Robert McIntosh, and as a part of the Servicemember and Veterans’ Initiative within the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Trial Attorney Shan Shah in the Employment Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Official news published at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/department-justice-files-lawsuit-against-prince-george-county-virginia-enforce-servicemember

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