WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the City of Winchester, Va. settled a lawsuit filed by the DOJ on behalf of the former fleet manager for Winchester’s police department, John Fultz.
The settlement resolves allegations that the City violated Fultz’s re-employment rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Fultz is a U.S. Marine Corps reservist. He suffered a knee injury during active-duty military training, and when he returned to work, the City placed him in a temporary “light duty” status that he had allegedly not requested. Months later, the City removed him from his position without prior notice, according to the statement from the DOJ, and terminated his employment.
The complaint by the DOJ, filed on behalf of Fultz in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, alleged that in 2009, the City failed to properly re-employ Fultz in his pre-service position as a full-duty community resource officer assigned to manage the City police department’s fleet of vehicles.
In a written statement, the City denied any violation of USERRA occurred, but the statement says the City agreed to settle the case to avoid the expense and inconvenience of protracted litigation.
Under the terms of the settlement, Fultz agreed not to seek re-employment with the City, and in exchange the City agreed to pay Fultz $32,000 in back-pay. The terms also specify that the City’s new Human Resources director will receive USERRA training and provide that training to other City department heads.
USERRA (though subject to certain conditions), requires employers to promptly re-employ returning service members in the position they would have held if their employment hadn’t been interrupted by military service, or in a position of like seniority, status, and pay, according to the DOJ.
By Greg Basich