It isn’t very often that a federal agency is the subject of an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for an alleged failure to rehire an employee that has been serving in the military.
But it does happen.
The Army Corps of Engineers is now the subject of a petition filed by OSC. The Special Counsel’s office contends that the agency failed to rehire Russell G. Jones and has petitioned the Merit Systems Protection Board for corrective action.
The Special Counsel determined that Jones satisfied the three prerequisites for acquiring reemployment rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
He had provided the agency advance notice of his intent to perform military service with the U.S. Air Force, he performed qualifying military service for the USAF, and he had requested reemployment.
As a remedy in the case, the Special Counsel’s office is seeking the following actions by the Corps of Engineers:
- An order to the agency to reemploy Jones to a position which is the same or similar in pay, status, and seniority to the position Jones would have held had he been continuously employed;
- An order that the agency provide Jones with all employment benefits based on seniority, including, all within grade increases in salary, promotions, and other benefits of seniority to which he is entitled;
- An award to Jones of back pay, plus interest, from the effective date of his reemployment; and
- A requirement that the Corps make contributions and necessary adjustments to Jones’s Thrift Savings Plan in accordance with USERRA.
The role of the Office of Special Counsel in this type of case is relatively new. Under a demonstration project of the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2004, OSC will investigate all federal sector claims under the USERRA which allege a prohibited personnel practice over which the Special Counsel has jurisdiction.