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,
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
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