HOUSTON – Luxury Jeweler Harry Winston has paid a U.S. Army reservist to resolve a claim they violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by refusing to offer him full-time employment.
“Discrimination against members of the National Guard or Reserve because of their service to our country is intolerable, violates the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and the Department of Justice will not stand for it,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “We honor all service members for their service to our nation, and this settlement signals the Justice Department’s ongoing commitment in protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform.”
“Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines fight for us. Fighting for their legal rights is the least we can do,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick for the Southern District of Texas (SDTX). “All service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, need to know that employers cannot discriminate against them based on their military service obligations. This settlement sends a strong message to employers that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will protect the rights of our service members.”
In December 2017, John Walker applied for a job with Harry Winston Inc. who ultimately denied his application. Walker alleged Harry Winston Inc. refused to hire him because of his military service obligations.
Congress enacted USERRA to encourage non-career service in the uniformed services by reducing employment disadvantages. It also intended to minimize the disruption to the lives of persons performing military service, their employers and others by providing for the prompt reemployment of such persons upon their completion of such service. USERRA also prohibits discrimination against persons because of their service in the uniformed services or if they pursue a claim.
Under the terms of the settlement, Harry Winston Inc. has agreed to fully compensate Walker for his back-pay and non-wage damages.
The Department of Labor – Veterans’ Employment and Training Service conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Keith Edward Wyatt and Annalisa Cravens handled the matter with Assistant Director Andrew Braniff of the Department of Justice’s Service members and Veterans Initiative and Senior Trial Attorney Alicia Johnson of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section. SDTX paralegal specialists Raymond Babauta and Nicole Robbins also provided assistance.