Guam - The Justice Department announced Wednesday that it has filed suit against the Territory of Guam and the Guam Retirement Fund (GRF) alleging defendants violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) when they refused to properly provide pension credit to servicemembers who used leave from Guam’s leave-sharing program while on active military duty.
As a result, Guam and the GRF shorted the retirement benefits and pension annuities of at least five servicemembers and potentially many more.
USERRA is a federal statute that protects the civilian employment rights of the non-career individuals who serve in our armed forces. Among its protections, USERRA requires employers to treat an employee’s time in military service as service with the employer when determining pension benefits. The United States’ complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Guam contends Guam and its retirement fund failed to do that when they denied pension credit to servicemembers who used donated leave from Guam’s employee leave bank while on military duty.
“This complaint reinforces that the Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the protections provided by federal law to those who serve in our country’s armed forces at great personal cost,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. “We owe a solemn duty to our servicemembers to act when any employer seeks to infringe on their hard-earned protections.”
“These servicemembers were called to active duty and they served honorably,” said U.S. Attorney Shawn N. Anderson for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. “Their many sacrifices should not include the loss of their civilian retirement benefits. Our office will continue to work hard to protect the employment rights of those who have served to protect all of us.”
The United States’ lawsuit asks the court to order defendants to stop denying servicemembers proper pension credit, identify all current and former employers who have been harmed by defendants’ discriminatory practice and properly credit those employees’ retirement funds or adjust their current pension benefits.
Trial Attorneys Joseph J. Sperber and Vendarryl Jenkins of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mikel Schwab of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Guam are prosecuting the case.
The full and fair enforcement of USERRA is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division.