As the United States’ involvement in overseas military conflicts has continued for over ten years, military service members continue to require help in adjusting to life back at home. Aside from dealing with the physical and emotional scars of war, veterans often also have trouble finding civilian employment when they return from serving their country.
Employment Protections for Veterans
One such service member is John Davis, a former soldier who is filing a wrongful discharge suit against his former employer. Davis served in the military many years ago, and returned to work at Southern Oregon Sanitation (SOS) in 1999. Then, in 2001, he rejoined with the Oregon Army National Guard. He served several tours of duty, including a yearlong tour in Iraq, from which he returned in April of 2010.
The Daily Courierreported in early April that Davis had filed suit against SOS, claiming that his former employer wrongly fired him for misconduct and that his firing was in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). USERRA is a federal law that mandates that service members who leave a civilian job for a tour of duty should, upon their return to work, be re-employed in the same job without loss of seniority, status, or pay for up to a year, unless they are fired for cause.
Former Soldier’s Firing May Violate Federal Protections for Veterans
Davis argues that when he returned from his tour in Iraq, he exercised his USERRA right to get back his old job, which involved driving an automated truck. However, Davis was given a more physically demanding job than he had before he was deployed, even though he had told his employer of the persistent back, knee, and ankle pain he suffered as a result of his military service. In addition, Davis alleges that SOS made unreasonable demands of him, requiring that he complete his truck-driving route in a time frame that was simply not feasible. Even more alarmingly, Davis claims that SOS falsely accused him of causing accidents that involved property damage, made false allegations about his use of unauthorized routes, and entered false reports in his personnel file.
Davis was subsequently fired and given no reason for his dismissal. In addition, when he applied for unemployment benefits after he was fired, SOS challenged his right to such benefits, claiming that he was fired for misconduct (which the Oregon Appeals Board found not to be true). Finally, Davis alleges that he was rejected from another job after the potential employer conducted a background check with SOS.
Since Davis’s litigation against SOS is ongoing, it is not clear if the courts will find that Davis really was fired for cause (which would be allowed under USERRA) or whether SOS improperly tried to get rid of an employee that kept leaving his job to go overseas. However, given the numbers of military service men and women who are in need of employment protections once they return home from serving their country, the Davis case – and indeed the national conversation about USERRA – remains sadly relevant.
If you have served your country overseas, the least you deserve is to be treated fairly when you are back home. If you are a veteran who is now facing employment discrimination at home, please contact one of ourattorneys to help you with your case