Friday, April 06, 2012

Home Depot fires people for being deployed?

home depot

When they boast of "More saving. More doing," Home Depot probably doesn't mean for consumers to picture a corporation so cheap that they would not only break the law but also fire servicemembers for being deployed to war zones but maybe that's what they mean by "more doing"?

Yesterday Caitlin Duffy (Forbes) reported of Home Depot, "The home improvement retailer’s shares are once again hitting fresh multi-year highs, with the stock up 1.4% on the day at $50.56 as of 12:35 p.m. in New York trade. Call activity on Home Depot suggests at least one strategist is gearing up for the bullish momentum to continue in the near term." But how long will the outlook remain bullish as word leaks out about a new lawsuit?

The US Justice Dept has filed charges against Home Depot. If true, even if just confined to one store in Arizona, it is (and should be) a public relations nightmare for the corporation. Iraq War veteran Brian Bailey served in the National Guard and it is said he was fired for absence from work due to his service in the military.

The Justice Dept issued the following yesterday:

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today the filing of a complaint in U.S. District Court in Arizona against Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. for violating the employment rights of California Army National Guard soldier Brian Bailey under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).

The department’s complaint alleges that Home Depot willfully violated USERRA by terminating Bailey’s employment because of his military service obligations. Bailey, an Iraq War veteran, worked at a Home Depot store in Flagstaff, Ariz., as a department supervisor while at the same time serving in the California Army National Guard. Throughout his employment with Home Depot, Bailey took periodic leave from work to fulfill his military obligations with the National Guard. According to the Justice Department’s complaint, Bailey was removed from his position as a department supervisor after Home Depot management officials at the Flagstaff store openly expressed their displeasure with his periodic absences from work due to his military obligations and further indicated their desire to remove him from his position because of those absences.

Bailey initially filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which investigated the matter, determined that the complaint had merit and referred the matter to the Justice Department. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division subsequently decided to represent Bailey in this matter and filed this lawsuit on his behalf.

USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against National Guard soldiers, such as Bailey, with respect to employment opportunities based on their past, current or future uniformed service obligations. Under USERRA, it is unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee because he has to miss work due to military obligations.

Among other things, the suit seeks compensation for Bailey’s lost wages and benefits, liquidated damages and reinstatement of Bailey’s employment with Home Depot.

"The men and women who wear our nation’s uniform need to know that they do not have to sacrifice their job at home in order to serve our country," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Civil Rights Division is committed to aggressive enforcement of USERRA to protect the rights of those who, through their bravery and sacrifice, secure the rights of all Americans."

"The National Guard is composed primarily of civilian men and women who serve their country, state and community on a part-time basis," said Acting U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel. "National Guard members, and their employers, should know that we will employ all of USERRA’s tools to protect the employment rights of those in uniform while they sacrifice time away from their families and jobs for training and active duty."

This case is being handled by the Employment Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona.

Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department websites and, as well as the Labor Department website
Civil Rights Division

A friend at the Justice Dept called about the above yesterday and I said we'd work it in today. We'll also cover it in the snapshot. We have covered this issue many times. That includes noting how common it is -- across the country -- for the deployed to return home and find there job is gone. I've also noted, about a year ago, three lawsuits by veterans in California who had lost their jobs while deployed (they are being represented by a friend of mine). There was the infamous February 2nd House Subcommittee hearing we covered:

I'm being really kind and not naming names but it was more than one member who, by their own remarks during the first panel, demonstrated they were unaware that it was against the law to fire a Guard or Reserve member who was on active-duty. How do I know that for sure? Because the second time it came up, I stepped out during the first panel to call a friend at the Justice Dept and ask if the law had changed? (No, it had not.) I thought surely that members of Congress, hearing about an issue they supposedly cared about would know the basics of the law. I was very much wrong.

Whether the charges are true or false regarding the one Home Depot store, hopefully, this will put a needed scare into a number of employers. This is not an isolated incident but something service members and veterans are encountering over and over. The lawsuit will hopefully raise everyone's awareness about the law and how it is illegal to fire someone because they were called up for deployment.

And while I'm writing about (and believe in) the power of raising awareness, let me add, if it's you that's suffered from being fired for being deployed and a company wants to make the problem go away with a monetary figure that you're comfortable with, grab the money. You've already suffered. One Guard member I know in California was offered a significant amount of money and he and his wife were expecting a child. He spoke to everyone about what he should do. It is great to take something public and it can make a world of difference for many when you do. But at the same time, you may have real world expenses and obligations that will lead you to settle out of court. If that's similar to your situation, you need to remember you've already been the wronged party and if a settlement offer works for you, you're under no obligation to become the public face of anything. If you can see something through to court, great. If waiting for that process to play out won't impose any hardship on you, go for it. But, otherwise, you've already given time to serve and you have every right to want to move forward with the life in front of you.

The following community sites -- plus Jane Fonda,, Adam Kokesh and Chocolate City -- updated last night and this morning:

FYI, I support reproductive rights, I support abortion rights. We're happy to note that topic at the ending of morning posts with one exception: I'm not letting you use the issue as a political football you trot out at election time. A friend with an organization is upset that I'm not interested in noting a two-bit fraud who 'cares' about abortion rather suddenly as she tries to use it to rip apart the GOP and glorify the Democratic Party. As a Democrat, I'd love to be able to say my party's done amazing work on reproductive rights in the last ten or so years; however, I don't whore. Most recently, we've seen the President who hid behind the skirt of his Health and Human Services Secretary to cave yet again on reproductive rights. There's been no leadership on this issue from either major political party. I'm not interested in your (mis)using reproductive rights to whore for the Democratic Party.

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