On March 21, 2012, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger announced that the City of Salem, Oregon and the Salem Fire Department agreed to settle a suit that alleged violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). According to the complaint, the Salem Fire Department discriminated against firefighters who also serve in the National Guard. The Department allegedly refused to cooperate in scheduling National Guard members, issued unwarranted negative performance reviews to the Guard members, and terminated members during probationary service.
The Civil Rights Unit of the Oregon Department of Justice received many complaints from current and former Salem firefighters who said the fire department discriminatedand retaliated against them for participating in National
Guard trainings and deployments. The Civil Rights Unit investigated and found the allegations to be accurate.
Under the terms of the settlement, Salem must report any complaints of discrimination or retaliation against members of the military to U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan and the Department of Justice for the next three years. Salem could face monetary damages or further penalties if it fails to meet the terms of the settlement.
“Members of the armed services should be treated with the utmost respect for their service to this country,“ Associate Attorney General Keith Dubanevich said in a prepared statement. “I’m pleased that this agreement will result in significant reforms that will protect veterans.”
The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive veterans rights’ practice and has published a guide for protecting employees covered by USERRA entitled “Litigating Claims Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.”