Justice Department wins aid against American Airlines for Air Force Reserve veteran | Takeover bid

The Department of Justice today announced that it has resolved a complaint that American Airlines (American) violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by sub funding the 401(k) retirement account of Thomas P. Harwood III, a U.S. Air Force Reserve veteran, after returning to work from various military obligations. Mr. Harwood is a Major General (O-8) (Retired) who joined the U.S. Air Force in 1981, served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve from 1991 until his retirement in 2016 and worked for American Airlines as a commercial pilot. since 1992.

“Federal law requires employers to promptly re-employ service members after their military service obligations, and also requires them to promptly reinstate their retirement benefits as if they had not terminated their employment,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen said. Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Employers who violate the civil rights of those serving in the military will be held accountable. This settlement demonstrates the Department of Justice’s continued commitment to protecting the rights of service members who sacrifice themselves to serve our country.

Following the conclusion of Major General Harwood’s military service obligations in 2016, including one that began in 2013, American both underfunded the catch-up contributions he owed to his 401(k) account at his return and filed them well past the 90-day limit provided by federal regulations. Under the terms of the settlement, American agreed to compensate Harwood $15,671 in damages and provide USERRA training to all employees in its 401(k) department.

Congress enacted USERRA to encourage non-career service in the military by reducing employment disadvantages; to minimize disruption to the lives of those serving in the military, their employers and others, by providing for the prompt re-employment of such persons at the end of their service; and to prohibit discrimination and retaliation against members of the military if they file a complaint under USERRA.

The Department of Labor (DOL) referred this matter to the Department following an investigation by its Veterans Employment and Training Service. The Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice handled the case and continues to work with the DOL to protect military jobs and benefits. Enforcement of service members’ rights under USERRA is a high priority for the Department of Justice. Additional information about USERRA is available on the Department of Justice websites at www.justice.gov/crt-military/employment-rights-userra and www.justice.gov/servicemembers, as well as at the of the Department of Labor at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra.

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