This week a federal court in Massachusetts held that a jury could reasonably find that the Town of Sandwich discriminated against police officer and military reservist Timothy Kane because of his military service. Kane alleges that the Sandwich Police Department passed him over for promotions because of the fact that he had to take leave from the police department when he was called up for duty with the U.S. Air Force Reserve. For example, in 2011 the police department passed over Kane for a promotion to sergeant shortly after he notified the department that he was going to be deployed to Iraq even though he scored higher on the sergeant exam than any other candidate.
According to the court’s decision, the Sandwich Chief of Police, Peter Wack, had a history of publicly complaining to the media about police officers serving in the National Guard and Reserves because he believed that their service contributed to the police department’s budgetary problems. Kane also presented evidence that other police officers said that Kane pulled “the military flag” whenever it would benefit him and that his use of military leave was a “scam.” One of the officers who allegedly made these statements served on the panel of officers who passed over Kane for the promotion to sergeant.
Kane brought this lawsuit under Massachusetts law and a federal law known as the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA protects the jobs of military servicemembers when they have to take leave from those jobs in order to serve in the military. USERRA serves the important purpose of ensuring, among other things, that military reservists do not have to choose between a stable job and defending our country.
The U.S. Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) investigates complaints from military servicemembers who believe that their USERRA rights have been violated. If you are a military servicemember who believes your USERRA rights have been violated, you also have the right to pursue a civil action against your employer like Mr. Kane did.