PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city has reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department over allegations it failed to promote a Navy reservist and Pittsfield firefighter, and by retaliating against him after he invoked his rights.
According to the Justice Department, the city will promote firefighter Jeffrey Rawson to lieutenant retroactive to September 2010 and provide him with more than $22,000 in back pay, pension contributions and interest.
The Justice Department's complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleges that the city violated Rawson's rights by passing him over for promotion to lieutenant in the Pittsfield Fire Department because of his military service obligations. In 2009, Rawson took a promotional exam for lieutenant.
Based on the results of the examination, Rawson was ranked second on the promotional list. In July 2010, the city informed Rawson that he was being skipped for promotion and that a firefighter ranked lower on the promotional list was instead being promoted to lieutenant. The lower-ranked firefighter was promoted in September 2010.
The lawsuit further alleged that, after Rawson filed a USERRA complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor's Veterans Employment and Training Service, the city retaliated against him by refusing to reinstate him to the list of firefighters eligible to serve as an acting lieutenant.
The terms of the settlement, embodied in a consent decree that has been submitted for approval to the federal district court, further mandates the city to provide training on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 to city department heads and supervisors on the rights and obligations of covered employees and their employers.
"Our military servicemembers sacrifice tremendously to serve our country," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. "This settlement demonstrates our vigilant protection of the employment opportunities of our servicemembers, and our commitment to vigorous enforcement of the laws that protect them."
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It's shameful that the City of Pittfield and Fire Dept chose not to take the high road. Ignorance is not an excuse or option with a municipality or any employer in the treatment of reservists. It's blatant harassment. Mr Rawson stood up not only for himself, but for the tens of thousands of Reservists that have benn called on during this time in our nations history. The settlement isn't a victory, but rather a justice served.