Mass Firefighter and Justice Department sue Pittsfield for USERRA Violation.

Pittsfield firefighter Jeffrey Rawson and the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the City of Pittsfield under the  Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) alleging that the city discriminated and retaliated against Rawson by denying  him a promotion due to his military obligations as a Navy reservist.

The lawsuit claims that Rawson ranked second on a 2009 promotional list for lieutenant, but in September, 2010 was skipped in favor of a firefighter who ranked lower. The department allegedly cited military related absenteeism as grounds for bypassing Rawson.

Rawson filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (LDVE&TS) regarding the matter.  LDVE&TS investigated the issue and found that Rawson’s complaint was valid and referred the complaint to the Justice Department.

The lawsuit alleges that after filing the complaint with LDVE&TS the city retaliated against Rawson by not including him in the list of firefighters eligible to be acting lieutenants. Rawson also alleges his superiors directed hostility him, including comments that he needed to decide who he worked for, the Navy of the fire department.

The lawsuit seeks a retroactive promotion to lieutenant together with lost wages and benefits that Rawson would have received if promoted in 2010 and liquidated damages. Incidentally, USERRA prohibits discrimination against service personnel who are called to duty.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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