Pierce Transit was ordered to pay $105,000 after settling a lawsuit with a Washington National Guard member whose job was terminated while he was deployed, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.
Van Sawin, a National Guard lieutenant colonel and Pierce Transit’s former business development officer, filed suit last year in U.S. District Court after returning from his deployment.
Sawin was activated in November 2015 as part of the Washington National Guard’s Evergreen Tremor earthquake readiness drills. Sawin was involved in the leadership of the exercise, which involved 1,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen throughout the state, as well as emergency response agencies.
After the drill ended in summer 2016, Sawin reapplied for his job at Pierce Transit. The agency said a reorganization in March eliminated his position.
Federal law requires employers to re-employ service members in the positions they left (or equivalent positions) once they return from active-duty military service.
As part of the settlement, Pierce Transit has to pay Sawin $105,000 in compensation for lost wages and benefits, as well as other damages.
“Due to the constraints of the settlement agreement, Pierce Transit is not able to speak specifically to its details,” agency spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said in a statement Thursday evening. “However, it is extremely important to note that Pierce Transit places a high value on employing active servicemembers and veterans.”
Pierce Transit will be required to adopt a policy for returning servicemembers, to train its management staff about federal laws, and to certify its compliance with the Justice Department for two years. All further disputes will be resolved in U.S. District Court in Seattle or Tacoma.