The Department of Justice filed a civil complaint last week in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado on behalf of Naval Petty Officer Third Class Lindsey Hunger against Walmart Inc. The complaint alleges that Walmart violated the law when it declined to hire Hunger due to her upcoming naval reserve duties.
“The members of our Armed Forces routinely make personal sacrifices to protect our nation. The least we can do as a nation is ensure they aren’t discriminated against for making these sacrifices,” said U.S. Attorney Jason R. Dunn of the District of Colorado. “When such discrimination does occur, this office and the Department of Justice will step in to right that wrong.”
“Servicemembers risk their lives to protect all of us. They deserve our full support, and the law does not permit employers to use military service as a reason to deny servicemembers jobs and other employment opportunities,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “Defending servicemembers is very important, and the U.S. Department of Justice will continue to aggressively enforce the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and other federal laws that protect servicemembers.”
Hunger alleges that in May 2016 she applied for a summer job at Walmart while she was a member of the United States Naval Reserve. After applying online, she received a call from Walmart’s personnel coordinator for the Walmart located at 2545 Rimrock Avenue in Grand Junction, Colorado. At the end of the call, Hunger mentioned that she was required to complete a mandatory two-week annual training for her Navy Reserve duty during the summer. The Personnel Coordinator responded by telling Hunger that Walmart could not support that time off, and ended the call. Walmart never called Hunger again about her application for employment. Hunger, who was supporting two young children at the time, could not find other employment in Grand Junction during the summer and fall of 2016.
The lawsuit alleges that Walmart’s conduct violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, which was passed 25 years ago to protect the rights of servicemembers. The law, known as USERRA, protects servicemembers from discrimination in employment because of their service to their country in any branch of the military. This lawsuit stems from a referral to the United States Department of Justice from the United States Department of Labor, after an investigation by the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.
The Justice Department gives high priority to the enforcement of servicemembers’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department’s websites at www.justice.gov/crt-military/employment-rights-userra and www.justice.gov/servicemembers as well as on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) website at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra.
This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Zeyen Wu in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.