The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Monday against Con-way Freight, saying the company violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
Specifically, the DOJ alleged that Con-way did not promptly reassign Naval Reservist Dale Brown to his former position as a driver after he notified the company that he had recovered from a service-related medical disability.
However, Con-way has denied the allegations, saying the complaint contains misstatements, and expressed resolve to challenge it.
The complaint, filed in Illinois, details Brown’s work history with Con-way.
He started with the company in 1987 as a driver sales representative and in 2006, was working at a Con-way facility in Illinois when he was deployed for active duty. While serving in Iraq, he sustained a shoulder injury in a truck accident during a night mission and returned to Con-way in 2009 after being honorably discharged.
Con-way placed him in a lower-paying position due to medical restrictions. By 2012, Brown had made a full recovery and told the company we was able to resume working as a driver sales representative.
According to the complaint, Con-way refused and instead made Brown apply for open positions as they became available. Months later, he was hired as a driver sales representative but was treated as a new employee with no seniority to bid on assignments. This resulted in a 40 percent reduction in pay compared to what he was earning prior to military leave. He was also not given a regular work schedule.
According to the DOJ, “USERRA obligates employers to promptly reemploy returning service members and place them as near as possible in the position that they would have been in absent military service, or a position of similar seniority, status and pay. For service members like Brown who return with a service-connected disability, the reemployment obligation extends to providing accommodations to the service member, which can include a temporary position until the service member has recovered and is able to return to his or her proper reemployment position. Contrary to these requirements, Con-way violated USERRA by treating Brown as a newly hired DSR, with no accrued seniority, rather than placing him in the position that he would have held had he not served his country and suffered a serious and debilitating injury that required temporary accommodation.”
The lawsuit seeks an adjustment to Brown’s seniority date with back wages for the six-month delay in reemploying him as a driver sales representative.
In a statement, Gary Frantz, Con-way’s director of corporate communications, said the allegations in the lawsuit are unfounded.
“Contrary to the allegations of Mr. Brown and the Department of Justice, the company went well beyond the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act. Con-way not only reemployed Mr. Brown, but it specifically created a position for him when he was unable to perform his prior duties due to a permanent shoulder injury he had suffered during his last deployment,” Frantz said.
He added that Con-way supported Brown while he was deployed and welcomed him back.
“Con-way is disappointed that the Department of Justice brought this action against our company," Frantz said. "The complaint contains a number of factual and legal misstatements. Con-way is eager to present its case and demonstrate that the allegations made are unfounded.”