U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL ANNOUNCES
FAVORABLE SETTLEMENT OF CASE FOR ARMY RESERVE MAJOR
INJURED DURING OVERSEAS MILITARY SERVICE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 10/9/01
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced the favorable settlement of a complaint filed by Mr. John L. Ashford, a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve, who alleged that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) violated his reemployment rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
Mr. Ashford alleged that he lost his job with the Postal Service due to injuries suffered while he was performing military duty overseas in Bosnia. According to Mr. Ashford, as a result of injuries to his back and shoulder, he could no longer perform his job as a Letter Carrier, a job he had held for eight years. The Postal Service permitted Mr. Ashford to request a change in position but the only position open in the Chicago area, where he worked, was a Flat Sorter Machine Operator. Mr. Ashford could also not perform the duties of this position due to his injuries. The Postal Service, therefore, put him on disability retirement.
Under USERRA, an employer has special obligations to an employee who has a disability that occurred as a result of military service. First, the employer must make a reasonable effort to accommodate the disability, to permit the employee to remain in his position. If accommodations cannot be made, the employer must reemploy the employee in another position that the person is qualified to perform or would become qualified to perform with reasonable efforts by the employer. The position must be equivalent or the nearest approximation to equivalent in terms of seniority, status, and pay, with the employee’s former position.
In accordance with USERRA, Mr. Ashford initially filed his complaint with the Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS). After VETS notified him that it had been unable to resolve the matter, he requested that his case be referred for litigation before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MPSB). Because the complaint had been filed against a federal employer (rather than a State or private employer), the Secretary of Labor transferred the matter to OSC for it to review to consider possible prosecution before the MSPB. In this case, such prosecution was unnecessary because the Postal Service agreed to provide Mr. Ashford with full relief.
Under the terms of the settlement, Mr. Ashford will be reemployed by the Postal Service as a Customer Service Representative at the same pay and seniority level he would have received had he not lost his job. Both the Postal Service and Mr. Ashford agreed that the new position was the “nearest approximation” in terms of status to his former position. Mr. Ashford also received compensatory damages for the time he was unemployed following his separation the Postal Service.
Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan said, “In this case, USERRA afforded protection to an employee who suffered a disability while performing military duty. But for his service to his country, the claimant would not have found himself unable to perform the duties of his position. Reemploying the serviceman to a similar position, without loss of pay or seniority, is exactly what Congress intended.”
Kaplan also thanked the USPS for diligently working with OSC to find a suitable new position for Mr. Ashford.