Largest settlement in history of federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
A historic class action settlement was reached between the State of Washington and plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit that will benefit at least 878 Washington State Patrol Troopers and applicants who served in the military but were denied a veterans’ preference, lawyers for the troopers from four law firms said today.
This settlement, consisting of $13 million in cash and an estimated $2 million worth of retirement benefits, is the largest settlement in the history of the federal veterans’ employment rights law, which is known as the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
This class action challenges the Washington State Patrol’s (WSP) failure to give qualified veterans hiring and promotion preference as required by state law, RCW 41.04.010. The plaintiffs who represent the class are current and former troopers Christina Martin, Jason Longoria, Charles Arnold, John Sager, Darrel Nash, Erick Thomas, Darin Foster, and Luis Gonzalez.
These troopers and the class are represented by Peter Romer-Friedman of Outten & Golden LLP, and R. Joseph Barton of Block & Leviton LLP, prominent class action employment lawyers based in Washington, D.C.; and the Law Office of Thomas G. Jarrard PLLC, and Crotty & Son Law Firm PLLC, Spokane-based firms that are owned and operated by veterans who focus their practices on assisting veterans and service members.
Under the settlement, the State of Washington will pay $13 million dollars to compensate WSP employees and applicants who were denied veterans’ preference in the hiring and promotion process. Out of the $13 million, current and former troopers will receive back pay and benefits for the time they were denied employment. Payments also will be made to veterans who applied but were not hired by WSP. Additionally, hiring and seniority dates will be corrected for numerous current and former troopers. Plaintiffs’ expert estimates that correcting the seniority dates will increase the collective retirement benefits of current and former troopers by an estimated $2 million. Finally, the WSP has agreed to institute procedures to ensure that the veterans’ preference is available at the time of promotion for troopers who are called to military service and return to the WSP.
Christina Martin, a lead plaintiff, said, “I am excited about this settlement and I appreciate that the State has corrected this problem. I believe that in the future all veterans’ preference points will be properly handled.”
Thomas G. Jarrard, plaintiffs’ counsel and a retired U.S. Marine, said, “These men and women served their country with honor and distinction, so it was an honor for me to serve those veterans in this case.”
Matthew Z. Crotty, a veteran, said, “I appreciate the courage that Christina Martin showed in coming forward with this case and inspiring others to do the same. It is not easy to sue your current employer. But Christina Martin, Charles Arnold, Darrel Nash, Luis Gonzalez, Erick Thomas, Jason Longoria, John Sager, and Darin Foster banded together to do just that. Nearly 900 veterans will be better off because of it.”
Peter Romer-Friedman, counsel at Outten & Golden LLP, said, “We are excited to announce the largest settlement in the history of USERRA. Federal law prohibits workplace discrimination against veterans. We will not rest until all employers treat our veterans with the respect and dignity they deserve.”
R. Joseph Barton, a partner at Block & Leviton, said, “I am honored to have represented these veterans in their efforts in obtaining a favorable resolution of these claims on behalf of their fellow veterans. I commend Washington State for resolving these claims and correcting these issues.”
The case is Tina Martin v. State of Washington, Case No. 2014-02-000016-7, in the Superior Court of the State of Washington, Spokane County.
For more information about the settlement, visit:
Crotty & Son Law Firm, PLLC
Outten & Golden LLP:
Block & Leviton LLP: