OSC Seal

 U.S. Office of Special Counsel
 1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
 Washington, D.C. 20036-4505

OSC Wins Reemployment and Back Pay
For Injured Iraqi War Veteran

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 19, 2006
CONTACT: LOREN SMITH, 202-254-3714, lsmith@osc.gov

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced the successful resolution of a reemployment rights claim filed by a service member who sustained serious injuries in the line of fire and, consequently, was unable to perform his civilian job when he returned stateside.

      U.S. Army Reservist James Harris sustained significant injuries to his neck and back while performing military service in Iraq. When honorably discharged from military service, his injuries prevented Harris from returning to the job he held for ten years as a Postal Carrier at a U.S. Post Office in Mobile, Alabama. Rather than looking for an alternate position for him, though, the postmaster sent Harris a letter saying that there was no work available for him.

     “Under the facts of this case, USERRA required the Postmaster in Mobile to look for a suitable, alternative position for Mr. Harris, not just send him home,” explained Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch.

      The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is the federal law that protects the employment and reemployment rights of service members who are absent from their civilian jobs due to military service.

      Under USERRA, a service member may ask that the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate and endeavor to resolve his or her USERRA claim. If Labor is unable to resolve a claim involving a federal employer, the service member may ask that OSC review his or her claim for possible prosecution against the involved federal agency. Under an ongoing demonstration project, however, OSC has the authority to receive and investigate certain federal sector USERRA claims itself. Labor continues to investigate all non-federal sector claims, which comprise around 85% to 90% of the USERRA claims filed each year.

      After receiving the case under the demonstration project, OSC interviewed several witnesses and obtained and reviewed numerous documents concerning Harris’ predicament. With the full cooperation and assistance of the Postal Service’s legal staff in Washington, D.C., Harris was back at work as a Distribution/Retail Associate within a few weeks after OSC initially received the case. OSC’s subsequent negotiations secured back pay for Harris and, should Harris not be able to perform the duties of his new position, the Post Office has agreed to seek placement assistance on Harris’s behalf from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management –– as the statute requires.

      When asked whether he believes that, at the end of the demonstration project, Congress should allow OSC to investigate all federal sector claims, Bloch stated, “This case proves that my agency has the investigative, analytical, and prosecutorial expertise and experience in federal employment matters to deliver the timely results that these men and women deserve. If we can help our hardworking servicemembers expedite the process of returning to work, we are happy to do everything and anything we are asked to do.”



      The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency and operates as a secure channel for disclosures of whistleblower complaints and abuse of authority. Its primary mission is to safeguard the merit system in federal employment by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially retaliation for whistle blowing. OSC also has jurisdiction over the Hatch Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. For more information please visit our web site at www.osc.gov or call 1-800-872-9855.