Most employment attorneys know that Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) requires employers to rehire military servicemembers that return from service to their same position or the position that would have been attained had they not been called away for military service. What most people, including employers, do not understand is that an employer also must retain the servicemember in employment for a year absent good cause to terminate the employment. Thus, for a full year after reemployment, the returning service member is no longer an “at will” employee.
Take the case of former Sgt. Michael T. Russell. Russell completed a one-year deployment to Iraq and returned to his position with the sheriff’s office. According to the suit that he filed, Sheriff Bill Schatzman fired Russell from his deputy position after Russell bought $100 in raffle tickets from Schatzman’s opponent in his upcoming re-election bid. While there may be a First Amendment claim here, Russell pursued the case under the much easier provisions of USERRA. Even though the reason for termination had absolutely nothing to do with Russell’s military service, there allegedly was a violation of USERRA because he was fired without cause.
Last month, the Forsyth County commissioners agreed to pay Russell $96,000 to settle the lawsuit. The average salary for deputies in Forsyth County is $50,000. Shortly after being terminated, Russell returned to active duty and thus, apparently did not have substantial lost wages.
If you even think that your employment rights have been violated or that you might need an employment lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The Spitz Law Firm is dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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