Ashley HomeStore settles employment-rights case with Indiana guardsman

Keywords Law / Military / Settlement
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Ashley HomeStore has agreed to pay an Indiana Army National guardsman $6,000 after he alleged he was fired from the store’s Greenwood location after returning from active duty.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the settlement between the Wisconsin-based home goods chain and Cpt. Christopher Robbins on Thursday. In addition to the $6,000 in damages, Ashley will train its supervisors and human resources officials on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and will post an in-store notice to employees of their rights under the act and the company’s intent to comply with it.

Robbins alleged Ashley violated his rights under the USERRA when he was fired in 2017 after leaving his job at the Greenwood store for a one-month training in Louisiana.

According to Robbins’ complaint, he began working as a salesman for Ashley in 2014 and was promoted to a senior sales position in the spring of 2017. That summer, he was sent to Louisiana for Joint Readiness Training Center exercises.

Robbins informed his supervisor at Ashley, Kenneth Gaddis, that he would be taking military leave and provided Gaddis with his orders. When he returned to Indiana in August 2017, Robbins and Gaddis agreed on a return date of Sept. 1.

However, when Robbins informed the corporate human resources department of his return date, he was told that he left without taking military leave and that the company did not have a copy of his orders. Robbins provided his orders again and informed the HR department that under USERRA, he had 14 days to return to work.

Robbins did not hear from the HR department again but was eventually told by Gaddis that he had been terminated. He filed his complaint first with the Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service, which referred the matter to the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

“The Justice Department expects employers to fully comply with their reemployment obligations under the law,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana John Childress said in a statement. “Where employers fall short in doing so, we will aggressively vindicate the reemployment rights of servicemembers.”

In a statement to Indiana Lawyer, an Ashley spokesman said, “The allegations arose several years ago, which we denied. This matter is no longer pending, as evidenced by the Court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.”

The case was handled by Christopher Woolley, senior trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section, and Indiana Southern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Preston.

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