Department of Justice investigation revealed a pattern of discrimination and retaliation against members of the Oregon National Guard.
Attorney General John Kroger today announced a settlement with the City of Salem and the Salem Fire Department (SFD) over alleged employment discrimination against members of the Oregon National Guard.
"Members of the armed services should be treated with the utmost respect for their service to this country, "said Keith Dubanevich, Associate Attorney General. "I'm pleased that this agreement will result in significant reforms that will protect veterans."
The Oregon Department of Justice's Civil Rights Unit launched an investigation after receiving complaints filed by service members who are current or former firefighters employed by SFD and the City of Salem. The complaints alleged systematic discrimination or retaliation against service members who exercised their employment rights, under the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and state law, to participate in military trainings and deployments.
The alleged retaliatory actions included refusing to cooperate with National Guard scheduling, negative performance reviews and termination during probationary service.
In a separate but interrelated action, Portland-based employment law firm Mitra Law Group filed lawsuits in federal court on behalf of two National Guardsmen who were allegedly terminated by SFD for requesting time off to participate in military drills and possible deployments.
The Department of Justice worked closely with the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs and Mitra Law Group to secure a three-year settlement agreement with the City of Salem and SFD. The agreement requires the City and SFD to make dramatic reforms to their treatment of service members that will be closely monitored by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan.
For the duration of the agreement, SFD and the City of Salem must immediately provide a copy of any written reports of discrimination or retaliation against members of the armed forces to Judge Hogan and the Department of Justice. If the City or SFD fail to comply with any injunctive terms set forth in the agreement, Judge Hogan will retain the authority to craft a binding resolution, which may include but is not limited to an award of monetary damages in favor of aggrieved veterans, injunctive relief, contempt, attorney fees and costs. This settlement agreement does not limit the ability of service members to enforce their rights separately from the agreement.
The Department of Justice also collaborated with Mitra Law Group to negotiate economic damages on behalf of the two plaintiffs, plus attorney fees. The monetary terms will be memorialized in a separate agreement.
Department of Justice Attorneys Fred Ruby, David Kramer and Diane Schwartz Sykes handled the case for the Department's Civil Rights Unit. The Civil Rights Unit works with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other partners to investigate and resolve civil rights violations.
Attorney General John Kroger leads the Oregon Department of Justice. The Department's mission is to fight crime and fraud, protect the environment, improve child welfare, promote a positive business climate, and defend the rights of all Oregonians.
Tony Green, (503) 378-6002 firstname.lastname@example.org