Firefighter Allegedly Denied Promotion Because Of Military Service, Gets $22,000

firefighter discrimination military service Jeffrey Rawson has worked as a firefighter for 21 years. But when it came time to pick a new lieutenant at the Pittsfield, Mass., fire department, Rawson didn't get the job. He believes it's because he's a Navy reservist, who served his country for a year in Iraq. The U.S. Department of Justice agreed, and filed a lawsuit on his behalf.

Since 1994, it's been illegal for employers to discriminate against someone who leaves his or her job for a period to serve in the military. Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto denies that any discrimination took place, but last month the city agreed to promote Rawson to lieutenant, reports The Berkshire Eagle, and shell out $22,000 of taxpayer money in back pay as part of a settlement.

In September 2010 Rawson was passed over for the job of lieutenant, even though he got a higher score then the competition on the qualification exam. In a letter explaining why he didn't get the job, the city cited two reasons. First was that he took too much sick leave, though a Department of Labor investigation found that Rawson actually took fewer sick days than average in the fire department.

The second reason that the city gave: "Firefighter Rawson was on military leave for the year of 2008."

The federal government took up Rawson's case. That year, the Department of Labor received 1,548 complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of military service. The Department of Justice brought this suit all the way up to federal court. It's unusual for such a case to get that far; the Department of Justice had only 12 such cases on its docket that year. After all, the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act is pretty clear that discriminating against anyone who dons the uniform of his or her country when called is a serious violation of the law.

Right before Mayor Ruberto left office, he finally agreed to settle. In addition to awarding Rawson backpay, the settlement requires the city's hiring authority, fire chief, and other supervisors to undergo training in the provisions of the USERRA.

A lack of training is the main reason why employers flout this law, according to a Washington Post investigation last month. Ironically, the Post found that the federal government is the country's greatest offender, making up 18 percent of the complaints filed with the Labor Department last year under USERRA.

The unemployment rate of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans stood at 17 percent in January of this year, according to a survey by the organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. And while formal complaints of discrimination are rare, the sense of discrimination is pervasive. Half of the unemployed veterans said that they did not feel employers were open to hiring applicants with service to their country on their resume.

How to Mentor a Military Veteran and Their Family

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:
Austin Rozzell

SMRTNUP and Tannervin

why do little piss ants like you, have noting BettEr to do. so the fuc what, its not spelled correct its niot corrrrrect grammmmmmer who gives a fly fuc. bUt i am suUUURRREEE you can grasp this concept.
Get a life piss ant, better yet get laid, I am sure you just correct people on the net because of your short little problems behind the zipper.
now you can respond if you have the nutz but i expect you will just whine , and really this is all the time I have to even consider you.

May 23 2012 at 10:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not only as a U.S. Air Force Veteran but as a former owner of several businesses, . . I can tell you this. . . If you hire any person who had Boy Scout training as a young boy and anyone who has served in the U.S. Armed Services branches, . . You will always have a GOOD employee who is self motivated, eager to do a good job and who is punctual and present. . . Ecperience Speaking ! . . . Much depends, however, on your ability to be a good boss ! . . .

May 23 2012 at 7:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What took so long?

May 23 2012 at 6:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

After serviing in Vietnam and getting out of the Army in '72, the Denison, TX police dept. was happy to hire a Veteran but to this day they refuse to hire anyone who is a member of the National Guard or Reserves.

May 23 2012 at 4:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Grammar police to writer - Learn the difference between "then" and "than" so you don't look like a moron.

May 23 2012 at 2:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tannervin's comment

You know, . . I too have noticed this error in english lately. . . I can only attribute it to the decline of the quality of teaching in our public school system. . .
Definition of THEN
1: at that time
2a : soon after that : next in order of time b : following next after in order of position, narration, or enumeration : being next in a series

Definition of THAN
1a —used as a function word to indicate the second member or the member taken as the point of departure in a comparison expressive of inequality ; used with comparative adjectives and comparative adverbs b —used as a function word to indicate difference of kind, manner, or identity ; used especially with some adjectives and adverbs that express diversity
2: rather than —usually used only after prefer, preferable, and preferably
3: other than

May 23 2012 at 7:58 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I seriously doubt government employers violate the law because of lack of training. They do it because they are ********.

May 23 2012 at 12:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When I got home from Viet Nam I tried to get my old job back working for the city of Cedar Rapids Iowa.and was told that I would not be going back to work for them.After going all the way to the top General in the state of Iowa,the city decided that maybe it would be to their advantage to hire me back.. Seems things haven't changed a damn bit in 44 years. What a damn shame for OUR Veterans!

May 23 2012 at 12:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Im glad this firefighter fought this absurd action. I wonder if the officials who make such decisions on permotions and such can be held personally accountable. After all, isn't this an abuse of power?

May 23 2012 at 12:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I have been layed off many times probably because I don't have a military record. It seems to go both ways.

May 22 2012 at 11:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

disgusting that he even had to go through such bs respect our vets dammit

May 22 2012 at 10:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Picks From the Web