No excuse for city in firefighter case

Wednesday April 25, 2012

Federal law regarding the treatment of military reservists by their civilian employers could not be more clear. It could not be more inexplicable that the law was so thoroughly ignored in the treatment of Pittsfield firefighter Jeffrey Raw son, a Naval reservist who will receive $22,000 in back pay and a promotion to lieutenant as a part of a settlement with the city.

Mr. Rawson, who was on active duty for varying periods of time between 2007 and 2009, says he was told by Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski that he had to choose between his job and his Navy service. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Rawson, who claimed he was denied a promotion he earned in 2010. The city is not required to acknowledge wrongdoing but as part of the settlement the fire chief and his officers must receive training in U.S. employment laws.

Under the tenets of the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Act, military reservists "cannot be denied promotion or advancement be cause military training affects their work schedule." Earlier this month, in response to a Washington Post story on mistreatment of reservists employed as civilians by the federal government, the White House said there would be "zero tolerance" of violations of the law in this regard.

Lengthy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed a strain on the employers of military reservists, but the strain placed on the reservists and their families who have had to deal with recall after recall is far worse. They also should not have to deal with job discrimination by employers who have no excuse for not knowing better.


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