You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Congress pushes for disclosure of employers who violate veterans law


The U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee has begun an investigation after revelations that the Labor Department is shielding the identity of employers who violate a landmark service members’ employment law, a committee official said this week.

This month, an American-Statesman investigation revealed that the Labor Department is refusing to disclose the identities of thousands of employers who have been accused of violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, which protects the jobs of reservists and National Guard members when they are called to active duty, even after multiple complaints or findings of fault.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, who called for a House Veterans Affairs Committee investigation after the Statesman story, said he would like to see new disclosure procedures in place “before the new administration begins.”

“The public has a right to know when their rights are being ignored by an indifferent employer,” Doggett wrote in a letter to the House Veterans Affairs Committee last week. “Public access to this information would increase accountability, deter future illegal behavior and inform veterans.”

The 1994 USERRA law, which also prohibits employers from denying promotions or forcing service members into lesser jobs when they return, was used by thousands of reservists and National Guard members called to duty during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 15 years. The Labor Department investigates hundreds of potential USERRA violations every year, though service members can also bring private lawsuits against employers.

Texas employers led the nation in USERRA complaints last year, and the state has dozens of employers with multiple USERRA complaints over the past decade. Among the offenders are dozens of federal, state and local governmental agencies, which likewise haven’t been identified.

More than 230 claims of USERRA violations were granted or settled after federal investigations over the past decade in Texas, and 16 Texas employers have had two or more claims granted or settled after Labor Department investigations.

As a consequence of the department’s stance, even violations by large corporations and government agencies employing thousands apparently escape public notice. Service members working for such employers, or considering working for them, remain unaware of what might be a poor track record when it comes to treating their employees who are called to active duty or weekend drills.

Labor Department officials told the Statesman they must withhold the names of employers to protect the privacy of veterans and service members who file complaints about them, citing the possibility of small employers with few employees. But the department also refused to name large state and federal agencies, saying they were unable to determine the local “presence” of an agency.

Doggett said he has been told a new Labor Department case management system could allow veterans to approve the release of the name of their employers. The department wouldn’t confirm whether the new system would allow for employer disclosure, saying it was still in development.

The Labor Department “looks forward to working with Congressman Doggett and others on how to best enforce USERRA while safeguarding the privacy and rights of those who served and sacrificed for the nation,” a department spokesman said in a statement.

A House Veterans Affairs Committee spokesman said its investigation has the “goal of finding a way to notify veterans and the public regarding employers who have violated USERRA while still protecting the privacy rights of veterans.”

It’s not clear if potential disclosure rules would affect only future USERRA complaints or also the thousands of cases that have been investigated by the Labor Department over the past decade.

Records obtained by the Statesman show that several employers regularly receive complaints in Texas, including a private company headquartered at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport that has seen nearly two dozen complaints from airline pilots, ticket agents and freight movers; an Amarillo firm that has received 11 complaints from employees, all security guards; and a private company in Round Rock that has been investigated nine times after complaints from computer engineers and lawyers.

Government agencies are also among the chronic offenders, with nearly 40 percent of employers with multiple complaints in Texas being local, state or federal agencies, a rate of public sector malfeasance that is higher than the overall national average of about one-third.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Report: Tillerson declines request to hold event marking Ramadan
Report: Tillerson declines request to hold event marking Ramadan

According to two U.S. officials, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declined a request to host an event to mark Islam's holy month of Ramadan, Reuters reported. >> Read more trending news Since 1999, secretaries of state have nearly always hosted either an iftar dinner to break the day's fast during Ramadan or a reception marking the Eid...
Afghanistan car bomb explosion kills 18
Afghanistan car bomb explosion kills 18

At least 18 people were killed and six others were injured Saturday in a car bomb explosion in eastern Afghanistan, CNN reported Saturday. The attack occurred near a bus station in the city of Khost, said Najib Danish, spokesman for the interior ministry. There has been no claim of responsibility.
Green Bay named country’s ‘drunkest city’
Green Bay named country’s ‘drunkest city’

During the 1960s, Green Bay, Wisconsin, was known as Titletown because of the success of the NFL’s Packers, winners of five league titles and the first two Super Bowls. >> Read more trending news Green Bay can add another title now. According to 24/7 Wall St., a Delaware-based financial news and opinion company, the city is rated as...
Man crashes truck into Nevada brothel
Man crashes truck into Nevada brothel

A man backed a tractor-trailer through the gate of Nevada’s Moonlite Bunny Ranch early Thursday, crashing it into the front door of the brothel featured in the “CatHouse” reality television show, CBS News reported.  >> Read more trending news Brian Brandt, 40, of Reno, was arrested and faces charges of assault with...
Missouri bride’s 92-year-old uncle is her ‘something blue’
Missouri bride’s 92-year-old uncle is her ‘something blue’

A Missouri bride wanted to include “something blue” for her wedding earlier this month.  >> Read more trending news She got it in a touching way, as her 92-year-old uncle participated in her service on May 13, in his Marine Corps dress blues. Alison Ferrell of Cape Girardeau wanted to include Bill Lee Eblen in her ceremony. But...
More Stories