Washington Firefighter Claims Fire Department Violated USERRA

A Washington firefighter is suing his department alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Travis Bearden filed suit earlier this year against the City of Ocean Shores claiming its refusal to grant him military leave violated USERRA.

Bearden claims the city began violating USERRA shortly after he joined the Army Reserves in 2013. Quoting from the complaint:

  • In late 2013, Mr. Bearden attended Army basic training (AKA Boot Camp).
  • In September 2018, Mr. Bearden requested military leave accrued under RCW 38.40.060.
  • Defendants refused to provide Mr. Bearden that military leave, claiming that he did not have written orders.
  • in March 2014, Mr. Bearden returned from his Army basic training to his employment with the City of Ocean Shores, WA.
  • In March 2014, Mr. Bearden was advised by co-worker, Matthew Welander, that the Defendants had attempted to find a legal method to terminate his employment due to his military obligations, but were unable to do so.
  • In September 2018, Mr. Bearden requested military leave accrued under RCW 38.40.060.
  • Defendants refused to provide Mr. Bearden that military leave, claiming that he did not have written orders.
  • In November 2019, Mr. Bearden was activated under Title 32 for active- duty.
  • In October 2020, Mr. Bearden requested military leave accrued under RCW 38.40.060.
  • In October 2020, Mr. Bearden made a complaint for the violation of his USERRA rights to the Employment Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).
  • The ESGR contacted Defendants regarding Mr. Bearden’s USERRA complaint.
  • On October 30, 2020, Dani Smith, Defendant’s Human Resources Specialist, sent Mr. Bearden an email and denied his military leave request.

The suit contends the city violated several provisions of USERRA, and seeks damages, costs and attorneys fees. Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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