Justice Department announces more enforcement of laws protecting servicemembers, veterans
WASHINGTON — When Army reservist William Pfunk received last-minute orders to report to training in April 2011, his employer, New York-based Cohere Communications, immediately fired him.
The company said Pfunk reporting to duty “raised some real issues.”
But the firing went against a federal law mandating servicemembers are not discriminated against because of military service. Pfunk took his case to the Department of Labor and, in 2012, the Department of Justice filed a civil rights lawsuit against the company. A $35,000 settlement was announced two years later.
“From 2012 to 2014, it was a tumultuous time for me,” Pfunk, now a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve, told Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday.
Lynch announced Wednesday that the DOJ would allot more resources to investigate and prosecute cases, such as Pfunks’, on behalf of servicemembers, veterans and their families.
The department will create three new assistant U.S. attorney positions in communities with major military installations and add two new trial attorneys to its civil rights division, said Mark Abueg, a DOJ public affairs specialist. It will also dedicate two new special assistant U.S. attorneys to military and veterans issues.
The positions are being added through a new program aiming to better enforce the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act – a federal law that protects servicemembers from incidents such as getting evicted while on active duty and allows them to terminate a cell phone contract or vehicle lease on duty, among other things.
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