Mass. Firefighter in Military Sues Over Promotion

A Pittsfield firefighter has filed a lawsuit against the city with the backing of the Justice Department over claims that he was passed over for a promotion because of his military service obligations.

Firefighter Jeffrey Rawson -- a U.S. Navy Reservist -- took a promotion exam to become a lieutenant in 2009 and based on the results he was ranked second, according to a DOJ news release.

The lawsuit states that he was informed last summer that he was being skipped for the promotion and that a firefighter ranked lower on the list would be promoted.

That promotion took place in September 2010.

Rawson filed a complaint with the Labor Department's Veterans' Employment and Training Service and the matter was referred to the DOJ after the agency the complaint had merit.

The lawsuit claims that the city violated his rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, which prohibits employers from discriminating against military reservists based on their past, current, or future uniformed service obligations.

The suit seeks to provide Rawson with a retroactive promotion to lieutenant ahead of the lower ranked firefighter who was promoted last year, the lost wages and benefits he would have received if he was promoted and other damages.

"No servicemember should be prevented from advancing in his or her civil career because of military duties," Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division said in a statement. "The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the rights of those who, through their bravery and sacrifice, secure the rights of all Americans."

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